REDD and Rainforests
By Marcelo Teixeira, Reuters, 12 March 2014 | The world's forests could hold 20 percent more carbon than previously thought, according to a study released on Tuesday. If correct, that extra 125 billion tonnes of carbon could lead to an increase in the number of forest-based carbon credits set to be offered in carbon markets around the world... Scientists from the University of Edinburgh say they have developed a new 3D system to measure forests' carbon content that is more detailed and accurate than current methods. For the study, the group analyzed a specific forested area in Costa Rica and compared resulting data with previous calculations of carbon stocks. Most projects that generate carbon credits by reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD) use satellite images associated with estimates of carbon content which vary depending on the type of forest.
A new online tool, dubbed ForestDefender, aims to help indigenous people understand and implement their rights in regard to forests. The database, developed by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), brings together vast amounts of legal information—both national and international—on over 50 countries.
Carbon counters trying to keep tabs on the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere may have missed an important factor for their estimates: fungus. It turns out that when plants partner up with certain types of fungi, they can store up to 70 percent more carbon in the soil according to a paper published last month in Nature by Colin Averill and scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
By Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com, 6 March 2014 | A member of the Suku Anak Dalam indigenous community was killed and five others were injured during a clash with security forces on an oil palm concession owned by PT Asiatic Persada in Sumatra, reports Mongabay-Indonesia. The incident occurred Wednesday evening in Bungku, Jambi. According to eyewitness accounts, security forces raided the village and arrested Titus, a 26-year old resident, who was forcibly taken into custody. It is unclear why he was arrested. As word of the arrest spread, a large number of residents approached the Asiatic Persada office where Titus was taken. Security responded with force, firing guns and beating the protesters, six of whom were seriously injured and taken to local hospitals. One of the victims, Pujiono, aged 40, succumbed to his injuries at 11 pm.
By Daniel Pye and Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 24 February 2014 | The Lower Sesan II dam project is a microcosm of the carving up of Cambodia. In one of the world’s most diverse river ecosystems, the ground burns. Whole forests are felled with scant regard for the law, while the project is backed by the country’s politically connected business elite. Here, at the confluence of the Sesan, Srepok and Sekong rivers, the dam will flood an area half the size of Singapore. The early stages of construction of what will be Cambodia’s largest hydropower project began in November, according to construction workers at the site. At the dam site on Friday, several diggers were at work, as the sound of chainsaws and the crackle of bulldozers felling trees filled the air. The 420-megawatt dam is a joint venture between Cambodian tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group and Hydrolancang International, a subsidiary of state-owned China Huaneng Group...
Greenpeace press release, 10 March 2014 | Mars committed to remove deforestation from all of its products by the end of 2015, a move that places pressure on companies such as Procter & Gamble to set an equally ambitious No Deforestation Policy. In addition, Greenpeace activists today documented ongoing forest clearance and unfurled a giant banner in a palm oil plantation in Indonesia which is owned by P&G supplier Musim Mas, and where orangutan habitat was recently cleared. “Mars joins a growing list of companies including Unilever and Nestlé that are finally promising forest-friendly products to their consumers. It shows that global public pressure is working, and is leaving P&G, which refuses to clean up their supply chains, increasingly isolated,” said Areeba Hamid, forest campaigner at Greenpeace International.
By Seth Shulman, Huffington Post, 11 March 2014 | It's always great to see the door crack open for progress on an issue when the parties involved start to recognize a "win-win" solution. Such a tipping-point moment is coming into view in the campaign to halt the widespread, devastating deforestation currently resulting from growing world consumption of palm oil. It's a classic case of science and transparency shining the way forward. The problem is far from solved but, in a major development, several large palm oil purchasers, including Kellogg's and Hershey's, have recently pledged to buy only deforestation-free palm oil for their products. Two of the world's largest palm oil suppliers -- Wilmar and Golden Agri-Resources -- have made similar commitment for the palm oil they sell. Now pressure is mounting on some of the remaining hold-outs -- like Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, and McDonald's -- to follow suit and do the right thing for the planet.
By Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa, mongabay.com, 11 March 2014 | There is growing evidence for a correlation between drug trafficking and deforestation in Central America today. After 2006, DTOs chose their new trade routes with care. They preyed on the remote forest frontiers of Guatemela's Petén region and eastern Honduras, which were thinly populated with only minimal state presence, where local stakeholders did not have a loud voice. Here, the Science report suggests that drug trafficking has compounded existing problems such as weak governance, conflicting property regimes, high poverty, illegal logging, and agribusiness expansion.
By Matt McGrath, BBC News, 26 February 2014 | The scale of ancient woodland being lost to development in Britain is being made worse because of a lack of accurate data. The Woodland Trust says that systems are so poor, the government cannot say how much ancient forest has disappeared in the last 10 years. However, a new report from the Forestry Commission says that the UK's tree cover has increased significantly. They say the amount of forest has more than doubled in the last 100 years. Ancient woodland is defined as forests that have been in existence since 1600.
By John Vidal, The Guardian, 11 March 2014 | Government plans to allow building on woods and other green places, in return for new space for wildlife elsewhere, have come under greater scrutiny after a scheme in Australia that had been cited by environment secretary Owen Paterson as evidence in favour of the move was branded "disappointing" by a leading expert there. The government, backed by landowners and developers, has claimed that "biodiversity offsetting" will ensure that any damage done to the environment is compensated for and that each new development will result in no net loss of biodiversity. Conservation and environment groups argue that the proposed UK policy will be a licence for developers to build anywhere. Two sources informed the Guardian that the plan was due to be announced within weeks, although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says it has not yet decided on a timescale.
By Elga Reyes, Eco-Business, 5 March 2014 | The parliament of Indonesia on Monday finally agreed to ratify the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution – almost 12 years since the treaty was first adopted by member states. The decision comes on the heels of a fresh haze crisis in Riau, Sumatra, where a thick blanket of smoke has stalled flights, closed schools, and affected more than 22,000 people with respiratory problems. The agreement, which has already been ratified by the nine other member countries as of 2010, seeks to monitor and mitigate forest fires that cause widespread air pollution. Indonesia is the sole Asean country that has not ratified the agreement due to previous objections on the infringement of sovereignty.
By Stian Reklev, Reuters, 11 March 2014 | Asia-Pacific nations are failing to halt the loss of natural forests and grasslands, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday, robbing people of their livelihoods and worsening environmental problems like desertification and climate change. Forests and grasslands make up 58 percent of the region's land mass, but each year 2 million hectares (20,000 square kms) are degraded and rendered useless, Patrick Durst, a FAO senior forestry officer told a food conference in Ulan Bator. Across the Asia-Pacific, 400 million hectares (4 mln sq kms) - an area equal to the combined size of India and Myanmar - are now in bad need of restoration, he said. "We are already seeing strong negative impacts," Durst told Reuters at the conference.
By Namrata Singh, The Times of India, 11 March 2014 | Indian companies, which had invested in clean development mechanism (CDM) projects under the Kyoto Protocol to claim certified emission reduction units (CER) or carbon credits, now stand to face a "real loss" on unsold credits, as opposed to a notional loss which was earlier being talked about, with prices falling below one euro. Industry estimates peg the notional loss at Rs 10,500 crore... "We would assume for credits to be issued between 2013 and 2019, an estimated notional loss of around Rs 10,500 crore. This with an assumption of 65% issuance success over a 7 year crediting period with assumed value of euro 10 per credit," said Birjendra Sangwaiya, principal consultant, carbon advisory business, Emergent Ventures India (EVI).
By Jon Austin, Basildon Recorder, 11 March 2014 | A former Rochford man has been arrested by police probing a £50million global fraud. Sam Sharpley, 31, who went to King Edmund School, Rochford, was arrested by armed police in Barcelona at the end of February as part of one of the world’s “biggestever operations” into bogus investment schemes, known as boiler room frauds. Sharpley, who splits his time between Southend and Spain, is one of 110 people arrested in raids across Spain, the UK, USA and Serbia...
By Simon Wilson, MoneyWeek, 10 March 2014 | Police in Spain and Britain have busted an extensive network of organised criminal gangs who cold-call UK investors and trick them into buying worthless or nonexistent shares; 110 people, mostly British, were arrested on suspicion of money-laundering and fraud offences. It’s the biggest crackdown to date on so-called boiler-room fraud and comes following a two-year investigation code named Operation Rico, jointly run by City of London police and Spain’s Policia National. [R-M: Subscription needed.]
In 2006, Mexico intensified its security strategy, forming an inhospitable environment for drug trafficking organizations (also known as DTOs) within the nation. The drug cartels responded by creating new trade routes along the border of Guatemala and Honduras. Soon shipments of cocaine from South America began to flow through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). This multi-national swathe of forest, encompassing several national parks and protected areas, was originally created to protect endangered species, such as Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and jaguar (Panthera onca), as well as the world's second largest coral reef. Today, its future hinges on the world's drug producers and consumers.
On Monday, Greenpeace activists in Indonesia staged a dramatic protest in an area of rainforest freshly cleared for a new oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan. The demonstration came under the group's campaign to push consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to strengthen its palm oil sourcing policy to include a zero deforestation commitment like those signed recently by Nestle, Neste Oil, and Kellogg's, among others.
Mars, Inc., the maker of M&M's, Snickers, Twix, and a variety of other food products, has committed to a zero deforestation policy for the palm oil it sources, reports Greenpeace. The policy pledges Mars to only using palm oil produced legally and without conversion of high conservation value areas, peatlands, or high carbon stock areas like tropical rainforests.
By Matthew Carr, Bloomberg, 10 March 2014 | Nations setting up carbon markets must standardize their emission-reduction benchmarks to ensure international efforts to limit global warming stay on track, according to Switzerland’s climate envoy. At least 30 of 200 countries meeting at talks this week in Bonn are developing carbon trading systems to help meet emissions targets under a worldwide treaty to start in 2020. Nations should measure greenhouse-gas cuts as tons of carbon dioxide even if they pursue hard-to-quantify policies such as emissions taxes and energy efficiency rules, said Franz Perrez, who represents the alpine nation in United Nations talks. The UN conference comes as China and the U.S., the two biggest emitters, spar over responsibility for pollution cuts to keep temperatures rising by a UN-endorsed maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times.
Two scientists are calling on researchers, NGOs, and governments to begin studying the impact of burning forests and peatlands in Indonesia on the already-threatened marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia. Every year, Indonesian farmers set forests, vegetation, and peatlands alight to clear them for agriculture, often palm oil, and pulp and paper plantations. Not only do these practices destroy hugely-diverse tropical forests, but the resulting haze spreads to many parts of Southeast Asia, threatening regional health and impacting economies. Now, a new paper argues that the sinister impacts of Indonesia's burning may extend as far as the oceans.