Implementation of climate finance / REDD+

REDD: conflicts, contradictions and lies

REDD: A collection of conflicts, contradictions and lies, World Rainforest Movement

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is considered to be climate protection and has been discussed as a formal instrument since the UN Climate Conference in Bali in 2007. Governments, banks, experts and NGOs who see it as a way of offsetting carbon emissions have been organizing events, producing reports, developing implementation concepts and funding actual projects for years.

However, the lines of conflict surrounding the inclusion of forests in climate protection have not shifted in recent years or decades. The topic is also marked by a number of blind spots, misunderstandings and deliberate misinformation. Using 24 specific REDD case studies, the World Rainforest Movement – with support from the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Cono Sur regional office and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation – exposes the problems with this approach in its recent report “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies”.

The local – and often indigenous – population living in the affected forest areas is rarely asked whether it wants such a project, and instead of addressing the causes of deforestation (industrial agriculture in particular), the indigenous forest users are identified as sources of interference. A system of CO2 certificates – which does not privatize the forest itself, but turns the CO2 storage capacity of its biomass into an “ecosystem service” and thus a tradable commodity – undermines fundamental human rights, leads to social conflicts over the distribution of revenues from the trade and other issues, and ultimately does little to protect the climate.

Firstly, REDD is above all about offsetting an increase in carbon emissions from fossil fuels through a reduction in deforestation. At best, the two factors cancel each other out, and in any case they represent uncertain calculations based on vague assumptions and hypothetical scenarios. REDD also shifts the political focus to the “potential savings” slumbering in tropical rainforests, and thus in developing countries, and eases the pressure on the major drivers of the climate crisis: fossil fuel companies and industrialized agriculture. While that may be convenient, it is both ineffective and unjust.

Many of the projects that WRM studied were given top marks when evaluated by “independent” experts. The information compiled in the report paints a very different picture, however.

Internationally, Germany is one of the biggest donors for forest protection and has financed REDD projects in Ecuador, Indonesia and elsewhere. The German government pays well over half a billion euros a year in total for REDD. Yet hardly anyone pays any attention to the government’s activities – much to its delight, as a report released in December 2014 documents.

The German support for REDD+ is mainly discussed among experts and that has never been intensively discussed in the German media or the parliament. It is seen as part of Germany’s traditional development cooperation and as an element of the efforts related to climate change – compared to other countries both relatively uncontroversial topics.

We can only hope that the case studies that have been solidly documented by the author Jutta Kill will now spur a political debate.

Lili Fuhr, Heinrich Böll Foundation

The article was first published in German on Klima der Gerechtigkeit.