The Carbon Connection – New documentary examines the impact of carbon trading
Two communities affected by one new global market – the trade in carbon dioxide. In Scotland a town has been polluted by oil and chemical companies since the 1940s. In Brazil local people’s water and land is being swallowed up by destructive monoculture eucalyptus tree plantations. Both communities now share a new threat.
As part of the deal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause dangerous climate change, major polluters can now buy carbon credits that allow them to pay someone else to reduce emissions instead of cutting their own pollution. What this means for those living next to the oil industry in Scotland is the continuation of pollution caused by their toxic neighbours. Meanwhile in Brazil the schemes that generate carbon credits gives an injection of cash for more planting of the damaging eucalyptus tree. The two communities are now connected by bearing the brunt of the new trade in carbon credits. The Carbon Connection follows the story of two groups of people from each community who learned to use video cameras and made their own films about living with the impacts of the carbon market. From mental health issues in Scotland to the loss of medicinal plants in Brazil, the communities discover the connections they have with each other and the film follows them on this journey.
The Carbon Connection, is a Fenceline Films presentation in partnership with the Transnational Institute Environmental Justice Project and Carbon Trade Watch, the Alert Against the Green Desert Movement, FASE-ES, and the Community Training and Development Unit.
In response to the threat of climate change, the UN passed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which was gradually ratified by 156 countries, and later infamously rejected by the world’s biggest polluters – the US and Australia. The Protocol sets the target of reducing emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 greenhouse gas levels by the year 2012. Emissions trading, the main mechanism for achieving this target, was pushed by the US in response to heavy corporate lobbying. The arrangement partitions and privatises the atmosphere and institutes the buying and selling of “permits to pollute” just as any other international commodity.
What are rights to pollute and how can they be traded?Under the Kyoto Protocol the “polluters” are countries that have agreed to targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions below their country-specific target in a pre-defined timeframe. These countries are the largest polluters, the “developed” countries. The polluters are then given a number of “emissions permits”. The volume is equivalent to their 1990 levels of emissions plus/minus their reduction commitment. These permits are measured in units of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases. One ton of carbon dioxide equals one permit. The credits are licenses to pollute up to the limits set by the commitment to reach the average reduction of 5.2 percent agreed in Kyoto. The countries then allocate the permits to the most polluting industries, most commonly for free. In this system the polluter is rewarded.
There are several ways in which the industries can then use the permits:
1. If the polluter does not use its entire allowance, it can either save the remaining permits for the next time period (bank them), or sell then to another polluter on the market.
2. If the polluter uses up its allowance in the allotted time period, but pollutes more, it must buy permits from another polluter that has not used up its full allowance.
3. The polluter can invest in pollution reduction schemes in other countries or regions and in this way “produce” extra credits that can then be sold, banked, or used to make up the deficit in its original allowance.
Credit-earning projects that take place in a country with no reduction target (mostly in the “developing” world) come under the controversial rubric of the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM). Projects which take place in countries with reduction targets come under Joint Implementation (JI).
CDM and JI projects can take a variety of forms: carbon sequestration in monoculture tree plantations; renewable energy projects such as solar or wind projects; improvements to existing energy generation; methane capture from landfills; basic improvements to polluting factories and so on. The amount of credits earned by each project is calculated as the difference between the level of emissions with the project and the level of emissions that would occur in an imagined alternative future without the project. With such an imagined future in mind, a corporate polluter can design huge estimates of the emissions that would have been produced without the company’s CDM or JI project. This approach encourages assumptions of what would have happened in the future without the project, if it would have involved the highest possible emissions. The bigger the hypothetical emissions, the bigger the reductions that can be claimed and the larger the volume of credits that can be sold. It is impossible to verify how many emissions would have been generated without the project.
But don’t the trees absorb carbon dioxide? That is a good thing, right?
Trees do absorb carbon dioxide, but they also release carbon dioxide. Measuring exactly how much is soaked up and how much is released over the lifetime of a tree is difficult enough – when trying to do these measurements for complex forests or even a whole tree plantation, it becomes impossible. It has been shown that diverse, old-growth forests have a far greater capacity than monoculture plantations to absorb more carbon dioxide than they give off. Plantations also have many serious other negative impacts on biodiversity, the climate and the communities who live nearby that are not reflected in carbon calculations.
Is Plantar in the market now?
In 2001, Plantar purchased and planted eucalyptus plantations over large amounts of land in Felixlândia, Brazil, where the documentary was filmed, in order to prove ‘additionality’ of the plantations (meaning the plantations are something additional to their regular operations). Plantar tried unsuccessfully three times to register its plantations and industrial processes as part of the CDM so that it could start generating lucrative carbon credits. Previously, a proposal was to grow eucalyptus plantations that could be used for the production of charcoal as a means of avoiding coal mining.
A different version of the Plantar project was finally approved by the CDM Executive board in August 2007 – this time for reducing emissions by the capture of methane generated by burning the eucalyptus inside ovens to create charcoal for Plantar’s pig iron factories. The pig iron is then used to make steel, 60% of which is exported, and largely used to build machinery and cars. This is just one example among many of large-scale corporate polluters gaining both profits and environmental legitimacy at the expense of local communities on the international carbon market. The combination of local and international resistance to such projects are vital in highlighting both the injustice perpetuated by carbon trading, and its ineffectiveness of dealing with the threat of climate change. Resistance inside Brazil and at the international level put pressure on the UN to continue to reject these applications until recently. But continued resistance is necessary to ensure that companies like Plantar are kept out and that carbon trading as a solution to climate change is further challenged and eventually rejected.
What does the World Bank have to do with it?
The World Bank Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), which was launched in 2000, invests money from companies and governments in projects designed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and generate credits that can then be sold on the carbon market. The bank has become the largest public broker of carbon purchases, and makes a substantial profit from the commission that it receives from the sale of the credits generated by the projects. In 2002 the World Bank entered into an agreement to purchase emissions reductions from the Plantar project.
At that stage, because the project had not been accepted by the CDM, the credits that were being generated were ‘Voluntary Emissions Reductions´(VERs) – which are emissions that are only usable for companies and individuals in the voluntary market. When a project is fully functional under CDM regulation, it generates ‘Certified Emissions Reductions’ (CERs) which are what companies and countries can use to count towards their Kyoto targets. There is much greater demand for CERs rather than VERs, and they also fetch a much higher price on the carbon market. There was a lot of pressure for the Plantar project to be accepted under the CDM so that it would generate more carbon profits for both Plantar and the World Bank.
Pollution trading is not a solution to climate change! Carbon trading is an elaborate means of dangerously delaying the changes that need to happen in the transition to a global, low-carbon economy. These changes are simple enough in theory, namely, reducing our energy use, switching away from fossil fuels and towards equitable, and justice-based models of renewable energy production and consumption. In practice, these changes constitute a global challenge that involves social and political change, and encompasses a wide variety of issues including land rights, neo-colonial exploitation, trade and South-North relations. The South is not a (carbon) dump for the North and should not be viewed as such. Rebuilding these South-North relationships and addressing historical ecological debt are critical. The failure of the Kyoto Protocol to deal adequately with climate change is also representative of wider issues of democratic decision-making and symptomatic of the injustices that permeate international relationships between peoples. In this way, climate change can be seen as a window into addressing truly profound social change.
PROTEST: Indigenous Peoples “2nd MAY REVOLT” at the UNPFII (United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues)
CLICK to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtORVi7GybY Indigenous Peoples representatives and organizations held a protest at the May 2 2008 conclusion of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York. They were angered by the final report of the Permanent Forum, which ignored Indigenous Peoples stated concerns about carbon trading projects (REDD), Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other so called” good pracise” initiatives.++++++
Communiqué from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) on the matter of the World Bank, REDDs’ issue resulting in the action on the last day of the Permanent Forum.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Attached below are paragraphs 5 and 37, which 32 Indigenous organizations and NGO’s participating in last weeks’ 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues were opposed to. Despite a lot of lobbying of Permanent Forum members, the language stayed in the final report. It must be known by our Indigenous brothers and sisters to know that there were certain people on the Permanent Forum that were advocating for support and implementation of carbon market initiatives concerning climate change mitigation and the protection of forest lands.
It was noted that during the first week of the Permanent Forum, there were numerous statements made by Indigenous Peoples opposing the REDD [Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries] initiative www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/EGM_cs08_diaz.doc that the World Bank is initiating through a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) project. When the Permanent Forum released a draft of its recommendations on the theme of climate on Monday, April 28, 2008, it was discovered that the draft recommendations (paragraph 37) strongly supported the World Bank initiative and completely ignored the voices of Indigenous Peoples that opposed the REDD initiative, as well as other carbon market solutions. Indigenous participants felt completely ignored and marginalized. One Indigenous brother from the Amazon basin region said, “I don’t even know why I came to this Permanent Forum, it seems they already had their mind made up on what they wanted to say.”
It was surprising to see language in the Permanent Forum recommendations citing the consultations held by the World Bank to be recognized. Indigenous Peoples from South America had noted the World Bank consultation in South America resulted in Indigenous Peoples walking out. Walking out on this so-called consultation does not interpret into support for the FCPF – REDD project.
Within paragraph 5, it was appalling to many Indigenous Peoples that the Permanent Forum recommended the Kyoto Protocols’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the World Bank’s Clean Energy Investment Framework as “good examples” of partnerships. Please look at the Petition, for these two initiatives are not good examples of partnerships and many CDM projects have reports of human rights violations.
After the draft report of recommendations on the theme of climate was released, concerned Indigenous peoples, especially the forested-peoples of the global south, converged. After lobbying for language in paragraph 5 and 37 to be omitted, it seemed like swimming upstream. Many Permanent Forum members were not fully knowledgeable on the REDDs initiative, nor fully aware of carbon offset and carbon market regimes. A strategy to present a unified presence was decided upon. A petition was prepared by IEN and signed by 32 Indigenous organizations and submitted to the 16 independent experts of the Permanent Forum. (8 of the members are nominated by governments and 8 are nominated directly by indigenous organizations in their regions. Members of the Permanent Forum are listed at this web site: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/members.html
The language of the draft recommendation that was released by the Permanent Forum members on Monday, April 28, 2008, is provided below.
(UN document number: United Nations E/C.19/2008/L.2, Agenda item 3 of the provisional agenda)
5. The Permanent Forum notes that the clean development mechanism, the Clean Energy Investment Framework, the N*airobi Framework, the Nairobi Work Programme and the Global Environment Facility adaptation funds are good examples of the kind of partnership that will become increasingly important. These mechanisms respond to the needs of indigenous peoples and include them as partners in designing and implementing programmes that are responsive to local problems and to the goals and visions of indigenous women and men.
37. The Permanent Forum recommends that the recommendations and proposals that emerged from the consultations of indigenous peoples and the World Bank on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and other carbon funds, such as the BioCarbon Fund, be implemented by the Bank and other relevant agencies. Indigenous peoples should be effectively involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Displacement and exclusion of indigenous peoples from their forests which may be triggered by projects funded by the Partnership Facility, should be avoided at all costs. Indigenous peoples or their representatives should have a voice in and a vote on the decision making body of the Partnership Facility and of other climate change funds that will have impacts on them. In the case of those who opt not to participate in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation or in the projects supported by the Partnership Facility, their choice should be respected.
In response to these 2 paragraphs above, Indigenous organizations and supporting organizations registered at the Permanent Forum presented the following Petition to the Permanent Forum members.
Seventh Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
20 April 2008 – 2 May 2009
Petition to the Members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Concerning Paragraph 5 and 37 of the draft Climate report Members of the Permanent Forum,
We would like to express our profound concern about the inclusion of our forests in the carbon market through the mechanism known as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Destruction” (REDD). During this 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, many interventions were made by Indigenous participants expressing opposition to the World Banks’ Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and its efforts to develop a framework for implementing the REDD initiative.
We strongly urge the deletion of Paragraph 37 of the “Recommendations on the special theme “Climate change, biocultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” [E/C.19/2008/L.2]. The World Bank on the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and other carbon funds, such as the BioCarbon Fund are facing broad resistance by indigenous peoples in developing countries and becoming very contentious and the cause of conflicts and divisions in our communities. At one of the World Bank consultations on the FCPF, there was even a walkout by indigenous peoples. The Permanent Forum must not put itself in the position at this time of becoming an advocate for the World Banks’ FCPF and its efforts to promote the REDD initiative.
Many adaptation and mitigation policies and projects promoted as solutions to climate change such as emissions trading, agrofuels and the Clean Development Mechanism devastate Indigenous Peoples’ lands and territories and cause human rights violations. The consensus statement of the Global Indigenous Caucus presented on the 2nd day of this session reflected this view as well.
The vast majority of indigenous peoples feel that the REDD will not benefit Indigenous Peoples, but in fact will result in more violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. It will increase the violation of our rights to our lands, territories and resources; cause forced evictions; prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices; destroy biodiversity, cultural diversity, traditional livelihoods and knowledge systems; and cause social conflicts. Under REDD, States and carbon traders will take more control over our forests.
We would like further to inform the Permanent Forum that steps are already being taken in many countries, including India, to put in place legislation and programmes that would enable dispossession of indigenous lands in favour of corporate and international NGO control as conservation parks and sanctuaries in anticipation of implementing REDD projects. These legal and policy initiatives demonstrate clearly that REDD would result in displacement of indigenous peoples and forest dwelling communities on a massive scale.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13 of this year and consecrates fundamental rights of indigenous peoples which are relevant to the REDD discussions, especially Articles 10, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32.
Given the threat to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights that REDD represents, we call on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to recommend strongly to the UNFCCC, the UN Forum of Forests, concerned UN agencies such as UNEP, the World Bank, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples and nation states that REDD not be considered as a strategy to combat Climate Change but, in fact, is in violation of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. Moreover, we also urge the Permanent Forum to recommend strongly to the Convention on Biological Diversity that the implementation of the programme of work on Forests and biodiversity prohibit REDD.
We also further urge that Paragraph 5 be amended to remove “clean development mechanism, the Clean Energy Investment Framework, and the Global Environment Facility”. These initiatives do not demonstrate good examples of partnership with indigenous peoples. There are many CDM projects that have human rights violations, lack of transparency and have failed to recognize the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The Clean Energy Investment Framework is a World Bank initiative developed in response to a mandate from the G-8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005. It is suppose to increase access to energy in developing countries, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector, and assist developing countries to adapt to climate change. Friends of the Earth reported that instead of combating climate change, the World Bank Investment Framework promotes coal-fired power, nuclear power and large hydropower projects. The report, published by international environment and development organizations, concluded that the World Bank’s new Investment Framework on Clean Energy and Development will not be effective at combating climate change and expanding energy access for the poor. Indigenous peoples must be extremely cautious on who we partner with.
Organizations that Endorse this Statement :
Name of Organizations
1. Indigenous Environmental Network
2. CORE Manipur
3. Federation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Asia (FITPA)
4. Na Koa Ikuiku Kalahui Hawaii
5. Indigenous World Association
6. CAPAJ- Parlamento del Pueblo Qollana
7. International Indian Treaty Council
8. Amazon Alliance
10. Instituto Indigena Brasileno para la Poropiedad Intelctual
11. The Haudenosaunee Delegation
12. Agence Kanak de Developpement
13. Mary Simat-MAWEED
14. Marcos Terena-Comite Intertribal-ITC-Brasil
15. Land is Life
16. ARPI-SC-Peru Amazonia
17. Asociaciones de Mujeres Waorani de la Amazonia AMWAE
18. Kus Kura S.C.
19. Indigenous Network on Economic and Trade
20. Aguomon FEINE
21. Friends of the Earth International
22. Amerindian Peoples Association
23. FIMI North America
24. L. Ole L. Lengai-Sinyati Youth Alliance
25. Beverly Longid-Cordillera Peoples Alliance Philippines
26. Red de Mujeres Indigenas sobre Biodiversidad de Abgatala
27. Fundacion para la Promocion de Conocimiento Indigena
28. Asociacion Indigena Ambiental
29. INTI-Intercambio Nativa Tradicional Internacional
30. Global Forest Coalition
31. Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu
32. Café ek
Representatives of Indigenous organizations lobbied various members of the Permanent Forum on the importance of not recommending implementation of the World Banks’ Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and its REDD initiative. It must be noted that a couple days later, the Asia Indigenous Caucus drafted its own proposed language surrounding the World Bank REDD initiative. This was in response to the Petition. While the Latin America Indigenous peoples were largely opposed to the World Bank REDD issue, members of the Asia Indigenous Caucus were split on the issue. The Asia Indigenous Caucus supported paragraph 37 to stay, and lobbied for two additional paragraphs. Their version is provided below:
THE ASIA CAUCUS PROPOSALS TO THE UNPFII RECCOMENDATIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Concerning Recommendations on the special theme, “Climate Change, biocultural diversity and livelihoods : the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges”
Insert Additional Paragraphs after paragraph 36 :
37. The Permanent Forum recommends to use the renewed political focus on forests stimulated by current policy debates on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) under the UNFCCC, towards securing the rights of indigenous peoples living in forests, and protecting rewarding their historical guardianship stewardship role and continuing conservation and sustainable use of forests. Indigenous peoples must not be excluded, and should be centrally involved in deciding forest policies and programmes at all levels, that deliver on justice and equity, and contribute to sustainable development, biodiversity protection and climate mitigation and adaptation.
38. The Permanent Forum has heard that the current framework for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is unacceptable for most indigenous peoples. Existing REDD proposals, would reward deforesters and polluters rather than indigenous peoples; reinforce centralized top-down management of forests, involve carbon offset regimes that violate indigenous cosmovision and world view and undermine indigenous peoples rights. In order to benefit indigenous peoples, new proposals for avoided deforestation or reduced emissions from deforestation must include address the need for global and national policy reforms and be guided by implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, respecting rights to land, territories and resources; and the rights of self determination and to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples concerned.
Despite all the efforts to try to lobby Permanent Forum members on the issue, and numerous closed door meetings by the Permanent Forum members discussing the issue, on the last day of the Permanent Forum, the final recommendations were released. The final recommendations maintained paragraph 37, and added the two additional paragraphs proposed by the Asia Indigenous Caucus. Paragraph 5 stayed in the final report, as well.
This is when the Indigenous organizations demanded a voice on this issue. The final day didn’t allow for interventions (statements) from Indigenous groups (observers).
On July 28, 2006 a Quilombola community in a Brasilian rural village took action to reclaim a cemetery where their slave ancestors were buried, now covered with eucalyptus monoculture by Norwegen Multinational, Aracruz Cellulose. Together with music, dance and ritual the community combines civil disobedience and clearly articulates demands to their lands. This revealing 9 minute documentary looks at how slavery persists over time and explores affects of environmental racism.
This inspiring group of young people from various communities in Brasil came together in a workshop in 2005 to act out the affects that eucalyptus monoculture has on gender relations in their communities. Through using tools of community video training, the youth from the Movement of Small Farmers (MPA) highlight issues of gender, solidarity and community organizing in what they see could be a solution to the degrading social fabric caused by the expanding eucalyptus industry.
33 min. | PAL | Little Sister Productions
In May 2005 Tupinikim and Guarani peoples in Espirito Santo, Brasil
continued a long struggle to self-demarcate 11,009 Hectares of their
lands from Norwegian Multinational, Aracruz Cellulose. In this
inspiring and courageous action the people explore the affects that the
exploitation, coersion and racism from the company has had on their
livelihoods and demonstrate how detrimental the Green Desert has been
on their lives and culture. This striking film shows through action,
dance and music exactly how a community can organize together to fight
a powerful multinational and through the articulate voices of the
people demonstrates what is important to their struggle; rights to
their lands. Portuguese
Appeal from literature and journalism for socially and environmentally clean
Paper is a wonderful material, which for centuries has served for a fertile
exchange of ideas among human beings. For us all who use it as an essential
vehicle to share what we think, imagine, dream, know or believe we know, paper
is a wonderful tool that we want to be able to continue using … but not at
the expense of people and the environment.
As people who live in this reality, we are aware of the serious injustices and
inequalities – social and environmental – arising from the world production and
consumption of paper.
In addition to the destruction of forests for making paper, now forests and
grasslands are being replaced by vast monoculture tree plantations, destroying
communities, water, soil and all life. Both the destruction of forests and the
installation of monoculture tree plantations – occupying food-producing land -
bring about enormous damage to the local population, who see their rights
violated, their environment destroyed and their way of life irremediably
The destructive cycle is continued with pulp production, in which fewer and
increasingly larger companies take possession of land where they plant trees,
of water that their trees and mills consume and contaminate, of political power
acquired through their billion dollar investments, and of the environment that
they destroy in the regions where they are installed.
To destruction are added inequities. The enormous volume of paper produced from
this pulp feeds a "world market" centred on rich and powerful peoples’
consumption. The average figures (that hide enormous inequalities on a
national level), show that consumption per capita is more than ten times higher
in the countries of the North than in those of the South.
To inequity is added excessive consumption. Only as an example it is enough to
see the mountains of paper and cardboard growing night after night in the
streets of New York to understand that most of the pulp
production does not end up as books, newspapers or journals, but simply as
trash. In general terms, at least half the pulp produced goes to the
production of paper and cardboard for wrapping and packaging, most of it
We do not want to have anything to do with paper produced in this way. We do
not want to become accomplices to the social and environmental destruction this
implies. We do not trust certification schemes that have given their seal of
"sustainability" to these same monoculture plantations whose impacts we know so
This situation has already reached intolerable limits and its solution requires
policies discouraging unnecessary consumption, promoting a rational and
socially appropriate use of paper, ensuring an equitable
use among countries and within countries, facilitating the development of
diversified models on a smaller scale for the production of pulp, respecting
both people and the environment.
The above is perfectly feasible and no technical limitations of any kind exist
to prevent it from becoming a reality. The only and real obstacle is the
economic interest of large companies, whose objective is to continue making
profits by imposing an increasingly large and unlimited consumption of paper.
The time has come to tell them that this is enough.
We are therefore appealing to those, who like us want to be able to continue
communicating through this marvellous material called paper, to join in this
struggle for a socially and environmentally clean
Victor Bacchetta, Nnimmo Bassey, Jordi Bigues, Elizabeth Bravo,
Ricardo Carrere, Antonio Franco, Mempo Giardinelli, François Houtart,
John Karumbizda, Kintto Lucas, George Monbiot, Edgar Morin,
Guillemo Núñez, Wale Okediran, Ike Okonta, Noel Rajesh, Ana
Cristina Rossi, Vandana Shiva