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Unintended Consequences: Greens protect coal deposits and destroy rainforest

Posted By Joanne Nova On November 25, 2010 @ 2:45 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Borneo forest destroy for biofuel crop

In Borneo, the Dypterocarp forest, one of the species-richest in the world (F), is being replaced by oil palm plantations (G). These changes are irreversible for all practical purposes (H).

Oops.

Brought to you by the same kind of people who regulate free markets to the point where you can get detained for selling light bulbs heat balls, comes the cry for a “free market solution” on carbon emissions. These people wouldn’t know a free market if it was the only bridge across a swamp full of crocodiles. Is that a stable path; a simple choice; a tested way through the quicksand?  No No! There’s a log (it looks like a log)… “it’s natural”. (It’s two hundred million years of natural selection.)

Playing with fake markets is begging to be bitten, and what do you know? A carbon market puts a price on life, but it only applies to some goods (all pigs are equal… but some are more so). The loop-holes pile on loop-holes until out the other end of all those angelically good circular intentions pops the exact one answer they were trying to avoid.

Figure it out. If global policies devalue concentrated energy underground and prize diffuse photosynthetic sources of energy above ground, will we protect and retain dirty rocks at the expense of historic surface biodiversity? I think so!

That’s right, carbon credits, alternative energy, and the holy-quest for biofuel promises to raze natural rainforests so vast they cover five times the area of England and deliver us a mass monoculture of palm oil plantations instead. And your tax dollars help make this possible.

The REDD scheme was supposed to reduce emissions from deforestation by helping to restore damaged land, but like any bureaucratic decree the problem lies in how you define what was “damaged” in the first place. And if that ancient forest wasn’t damaged enough to qualify last year, it could become more degraded quite soon.

The “good news” is that Indonesia might meet part of it’s promised greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Let’s hope the 50% of homeless Indonesian Orangutans in 2020 appreciate that.

Memo to Greenpeace — Coal power just might be more biodiversity friendly than biofuel. Sucks eh?

At least, to their credit, Greenpeace have noticed.

Indonesia eyeing $1bn climate aid to cut down forests, says Greenpeace

Vague legal definitions may allow Indonesia to class forests as ‘degraded’ and ‘rehabilitate’ the land with palm trees and biofuel crops

Indonesia plans to class large areas of its remaining natural forests as “degraded” land in order to cut them down and receive nearly $1bn of climate aid for replanting them with palm trees and biofuel crops, according to Greenpeace International.

According to internal government documents from the forestry, agriculture and energy departments in Jakarta, the areas of land earmarked for industrial plantation expansion in the next 20 years include 37m ha of existing natural forest – 50% of the country’s orangutan habitat and 80% of its carbon-rich peatland. More than 60m ha – an area nearly five times the size of England – could be converted to palm oil and biofuel production in the next 20 years, say the papers.

“The land is roughly equivalent to all the currently undeveloped land in Indonesia,” says the report. “The government plans for a trebling of pulp and paper production by 2015 and a doubling of palm oil production by 2020.”

The result, says the environmental group in a report released in Jakarta today, would be to massively expand Indonesia’s palm, paper and biofuel industries in the name of “rehabilitating” land, while at the same time allowing its powerful forestry industry to carry on business as usual and to collect international carbon funds.

“[Money] earmarked for forest protection may actually be used to subsidise their destruction with significant climate, wildlife and social costs,” said the report.

But weak legal definitions of “forest” and “degraded land”, have allowed the global logging industry and officials in some governments to take advantage of an ambitious UN forest-reform scheme known as Redd (Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation). This would pay countries to replant trees and restore land. Indonesia has pledged drastic action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% on its own and 42% with international climate aid. If it agrees to a binding deal to limit deforestation, says Greenpeace, this would send a powerful message to other forested countries.

Read more at The Guardian

Image: By Sandra Díaz, via Wikimedia Commons.

Biodiversity Loss Threatens Human Well-Being. Díaz S, Fargione J, Chapin FS, Tilman D, PLoS Biology Vol. 4/8/2006, e277. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040277

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