Forestry and Poverty Project Newsletter – Issue 18, November 2010

Indonesia Rebukes Greenpeace on Eve of Cancun Talks
Indonesia has delivered a rebuke to Greenpeace on the eve of the United Nations climate change conference in Mexico, according to Indonesian media reports. Indonesian Government officials publicly criticized the claims and data in a report by Greenpeace which claims aid money will be misused by the Indonesian Government. They also indicated that Greenpeace’s call for negotiators to make ‘zero deforestation’ a condition for aid money has been rejected. 

Yes We Cancun? A COP 16 Preview
Some commentators are attempting to put a positive spin on the UNFCCC conference in Cancun. Climate financing is the ‘golden key’ at these talks according to UNFCCC Chair Christina Figueres.  This sentiment has been echoed by developing country negotiating groups, who have expressed disappointment over so-called climate aid.  According to Lesotho’s representative, regular development aid is being repackaged as climate finance, and pledges are being made but there have been no actual developments on the ground. `

Stern – Block ‘Dirty Imports’
Lord Nicholas Stern – author of the much-touted Stern Review — has warned the US of potential trade boycotts if they fail to reduce their carbon emissions.  Stern commented that countries working to reduce their emissions would resent competition from “dirty” exports, and could face impose trade restrictions.

Indonesia Rebukes Greenpeace on Eve of Cancun Talks

Indonesia has delivered a rebuke to Greenpeace on the eve of the United Nations climate change conference in Mexico, according to Indonesian media reports.

Indonesian Government officials publicly criticized the claims and data in a report by Greenpeace which claims aid money will be misused by the Indonesian Government. They also indicated that Greenpeace’s call for negotiators to make ‘zero deforestation’ a condition for aid money has been rejected.

Greenpeace issued the report on the eve of the Cancun talks apparently to lobby for tighter conditions on the bilateral forest aid deal between Indonesia and Norway.  Like other NGOs, Greenpeace is also lobbying that no money goes to the private sector to improve forestry management.

Greenpeace claimed that the Forestry Ministry was to allocate 63 million ha of forest area to the agriculture, forestry and mining sectors for use as production forests or for conversion to plantation forests.

Indonesian officials said that the true figure area is less than half that – and surmised that Greenpeace had ‘made up’ the figures.  Researchers from CIFOR, the global forestry research centre in Indonesia said Greenpeace had ‘overstated’ the numbers.

Nevertheless, the Indonesian Government has stated that 24 million ha of forest land will be either used for forestry or converted to other productive agricultural purposes, rejecting calls from Greenpeace and Western aid donors to cease conversion of forest land to productive purposes.

Rising Tide of Criticism

The criticisms add to a steady increase of complaint in Indonesia about continuing misrepresentation of the facts and misuse of data by Greenpeace, of which there has been little reporting in the Western media.

Late last month, former Indonesian House speaker Amien Rais called for Greenpeace to be publicly investigated after their claims against the forestry, and pulp and paper industries were revealed in several independent assessments to be incorrect.  Most recently, its data was heavily criticized by researchers at the Bogor Agricultural Institute.

Protesters from the group Solidaritas Untuk Nusantara burnt the Dutch flag and publicly protested Greenpeace’s presence in Indonesia.

Still More Dubious Claims

Greenpeace’s latest report criticizing the Indonesian Forest Ministry contains a large number of contentious propositions.

Increasing food production – It criticizes Indonesia for an expressed desire to increase food production for domestic consumption and exports. In Indonesia the percentage of children under the age of 5 that are underweight or have stunted growth is 20 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. In the Netherlands – where the Greenpeace report was produced – these percentages are so negligible that they do not register in World Bank data.

Harvested wood products – The report assumes that all timber is oxidized (and releases carbon dioxide) in its year of removal. This is not true, even if UNFCCC carbon accounting rules allow carbon emissions to be counted this way. Timber-based products – such as lumber and paper products – store carbon. In landfill very little if any carbon makes its way into the atmosphere. The US Environmental Protection Authority has stated that harvested wood products make up for more than 12 per cent of all carbon pools in the US.

Plantations and ecosystem services – The report contends that forest plantations perform no environmental functions. Yet the most recent research on orang-utans in Borneo has demonstrated that viable populations of orang-utans live within acacia plantations. Additionally, planted forests are often used for environmental protection purposes including such as watershed protection.

Energy – The report criticizes the development of energy sources from biofuels and coal in Indonesia. Greenpeace also opposes nuclear plants. Wind power is unviable: Indonesia straddles the equator where winds are low. Large scale solar is prohibitive in developing countries. So the question to Greenpeace is: where should Indonesia’s 230 million people get their power?

Conspiracy theory – Finally, Greenpeace attempts in the report to paint the Forestry Ministry in Indonesia as either saboteur or usurper of the bilateral agreement with Norway.  News reports tell a different story.  They quote Norwegian sources that talks are stumbling because of disagreements over how to manage the money, through a domestic agency or a multilateral body.

Greenpeace wants the program halted.  Why would that be?

Greenpeace has opposed the REDD+ concept (funding sustainable forestry as well as reducing emissions from deforestation and restoring forests) since the beginning.  Any program that would expand commercial agriculture or forestry is objectionable to Greenpeace: it is all “industrial” activity.

At last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen, Greenpeace stated that sustainable forest management was ‘doublespeak’ for the forestry industry. It also accused UN bodies such as the FAO and UNFF of being ‘captured’ by vested interests.

Yes We Cancun? A COP 16 Preview

Some commentators are attempting to put a positive spin on the UNFCCC conference in Cancun.

Climate financing is the ‘golden key’ at these talks according to UNFCCC Chair Christina Figueres.  This sentiment has been echoed by developing country negotiating groups, who have expressed disappointment over so-called climate aid.  According to Lesotho’s representative, regular development aid is being repackaged as climate finance, and pledges are being made but there have been no actual developments on the ground. `

China has effectively declared that it will not accept any deals on finance – if domestic policy is in any way compromised.

Yet that is what Western donors seek.  On forestry, they want controls on expansion of agricultural development in return for “REDD finance.”  The US and Australia are calling for ‘emissions transparency.’ This is “climatespeak” for agreement that international inspection teams would be used to verify emissions levels in developing countries. This has been rejected by China.

According to China’s climate envoy, its “overriding priority will be to develop its economy, eliminate poverty and raise people’s welfare, and our energy consumption and emissions will experience reasonable growth for some time.” He also stated that “it is hard to forecast when China’s peak period of emissions will come, but to my knowledge, the peak won’t come soon.”

The negotiations have been further hampered by North America, with both – the US and Canada – both rejecting domestic legislation that would otherwise limit emissions.

Finally, the White House has called for negotiators not to attempt to establish yet another deadline for the talks that is unlikely to be met.  Europe’s leading climate activist, the British appear to be getting edgy.

Stern – Block ‘Dirty Imports’

Lord Nicholas Stern – author of the much-touted Stern Review — has warned the US of potential trade boycotts if they fail to reduce their carbon emissions.”The US will increasingly see the risks of being left behind, and 10 years from now they would have to start worrying about being shut out of markets because their production is dirty,” Stern told “The Times.”Stern commented that countries working to reduce their emissions would resent competition from “dirty” exports, and could face impose trade restrictions.

Stern’s ‘dirty’ exporters would also inevitably include many emerging economies including China and Indonesia. Stern’s previous work also suggests forest and agricultural commodities would come under fire. This, Stern argues, would be justified under the guise of environmental stewardship.

Stern’s 2006 report on the economics of climate change argued that curbing deforestation is a cost-effective means of combating climate change by reducing GHG emissions. The report was instrumental in promoting the idea that REDD was a simple way of both promoting growth in developing countries and reducing emissions. The report was since heavily criticised for exaggerating the benefits and underestimating the real costs of emission reductions.

NGOs and economists alike have criticised the report for its substandard calculations. For example, the section on deforestation took a very simplistic opportunity cost approach to land-use change based on land value and discounted cost of commodities produced. It did not account for land-use by subsistence farmers or community foresters; nor did it account for the broader issue of food security in developing countries with high rates of population growth.  It has since been heavily criticised by economists and NGOs alike.

Stern has also failed to appreciate how a large redistribution of funds from one country to another with little associated productive economic activity might impact on recipient economies.  One academic has recently pointed out that a large-scale REDD scheme – such as one being proposed between Norway and Indonesia – could significantly appreciate a developing nation’s currency. This would potentially make exports of both forest products and non-forest products less competitive. This would provide a scenario that, even if REDD payments adequately made up for any loss of export revenues from forestry and agriculture, then other primary industries, manufacturers and services would face additional costs.

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