Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Over-matter on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in PNG

This article is published on Sunday Sep 6, 2009 by Sunday Chronicle newspaper in Papua New Guinea under "letter from China" column.
..............................

By Manson O’iki in Hubei, China

THERE’S a small but growing community of people who are trying to bring some clarity to the debate about forest protection in the run-up to Copenhagen, specifically the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process.

A 'project based' approach for REDD would allow bits of forest to be 'bought up' by organizations, who'd pay to protect the forest in return for securing rights to the future carbon credits from it.

There are real problems with the project-based approach. Without a wider plan for making emissions cuts, it’s difficult to know how long the project will last, whether it represents additional carbon savings compared to 'business as usual', whether the forest being protected leads to other forest being cleared, a problem known as 'leakage', and increased vulnerability to corruption.

We'd actually argue that project based offsets operate as a distraction, discouraging real solutions to climate change and biodiversity protection.

PNG has been leading the way in international negotiations over avoided deforestation in the hope of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, an objective known as REDD.

However, a recent scandal has led to the suspension of the head of Office of Climate Change. This has happened at a difficult time when PNG should be working on a national legislation for REDD, and prepare for Copenhagen, instead of wasting time and resources on investigating our own Office of Climate Change (OCC).

Meanwhile, the OCC needs to get on with developing an Interim Low Carbon Development Strategy, which emphasizes the REDD policy agenda. Part of this involves looking at securing land for REDD and for benefit sharing.

Another part of this strategy involves looking at the drivers of deforestation and degradation in the country. Again, much needed work. You can't just buy up a few blocks of forest in the country, slap a REDD sticker on them and hope that deforestation will go away. Finally, an economic analysis of REDD costs is also needed in the country.

So much work, so little time. So how are we going to do it? The government is probably going to call in highly expensive foreign consultants to assist prepare for Copenhagen to develop the national REDD and climate change plan.

Now I can guess what some of you are probably wondering, shouldn't PNG be doing this all for itself rather than calling in expensive foreign consultants?

Well in an ideal world, which this isn't, perhaps and only if we had all the expertise we need. Remember that there are stacks of people fretting about whether PNG (and many other countries) are going to manage to get this all right.

How will leakage be avoided? How can REDD truly address the drivers of deforestation? How can we manage forest conservation at the same time as promoting a sustainable low-carbon development path? How can we increase agricultural productivity as a way of reducing pressure on forestry? Well, guess what? This is exactly the sort of thing that these highly expensive consultants know all about. Of course they don't come cheap, and they are not without their problems.

But PNG is a different country with a different set of problems, and a low baseline of deforestation is not one of them. So it will certainly be interesting to see what these consultants will come up with.

Where to find the money? Well UN-REDD is likely to be asked, and all the usual government donors. The Australians, in particular, might be a good source to tap. Our entire carbon strategy seems to be to buy carbon offsets abroad, whether or not these are produced by the rules and regulations of a mandatory market.

In recent months, a number of fascinating discussions have been held across several media avenues that have helped to further unravel the story of forest carbon deals in PNG.

This has helped to throw some light onto a process that had formerly been going on behind the scenes, and at least allow some level of public scrutiny. What is so informative about these discussions is that involves a discussion between some of the main players in private forest carbon projects in PNG.

Carbon Planet, one of the representatives of the landowners involved in a carbon deal in Kamula Doso.

Most of those involved in negotiating over REDD say that rules and regulations should be properly set before a market for these forest carbon credits is introduced and traded. But holding back the private sector from doing deals in advance of Copenhagen is impossible.

While REDD policy allows debate about whether it should work at a project level or a national level, the private sector is busy answering this question buying up projects all over the place.

Instead of a national baseline for deforestation that the government is trying to minimize, bits of forest here-and-there are being tied up in deals. And you can't simply blame 'carbon cowboys', charities and environmental NGOs are all doing project level deals as well.

How will these project level forests avoid 'leakage' and the movement of forest destruction to other areas of the country? They probably won't, which makes it a concern and which is why people arguing about whether REDD should work at a project or national level.

One question that crops up again and again in forums discussing carbon trading in PNG is the question of how such trading is possible and what laws allow it? The answer appears to be quite deceptively simple.

The laws that allow forest carbon trading are as simple as those that allow me to sell you any piece of property that I own. Indeed, I could sell you the spirits in the trees, if you were convinced I had the ownership rights to them and could transfer this ownership to you.

And this is in essence what is going on in PNG right now. For all the talk of REDD and carbon markets in the future between nations, the deals done right now and carbon being traded, seems to involve just a voluntary market between individuals and corporations. The market that offers you ways of offsetting your airplane flights, or car journeys.

Where does REDD come in? Well the idea is that when Copenhagen arrives, a deal over REDD would create a large and valuable mandatory market.

A highly regulated market where governments would be obliged to buy forest carbon credits in order to offset their pollution, mostly from power generation.

It seems there is an expectation that these voluntary agreements being done right now could somehow be turned into some kind of REDD credits and traded on that market.

And even if official trading doesn't begin for years, just the creation of REDD at Copenhagen would stimulate the market to produce options to deliver REDD credits.

So the point about these deals is that entrepreneurs are betting that the voluntary credits they are developing today will be transferable to forest carbon credits that can be upgraded and traded on the grown-up markets for more money later down the line.

And while that speculation might be unhelpful at this stage, far bigger risks have been taken in business for far less potential reward. So it isn't unexpected. Furthermore there is the attraction of potentially huge profits.

In some parts of the world, the cost of conserving an acre of rainforest is ludicrously low compared with even low estimates of the vale of the carbon per acre. That is sort of the point of a market, is that the private sector finds the cheapest ways to conserve carbon.

The trouble is that this is never going to be a normal market, its a highly regulated market created by national and international legislation in order to achieve a public good.

The public will simply not be comfortable with massive windfall profits for a few entrepreneurs, or even the landowners themselves. There is already an idea floating around that such profits need to be taxed, and put into other carbon avoiding projects.

Although it is hard to know exactly what is going on, I think it might be valuable to conduct a thought experiment.

Let’s imagine that I've got a couple of thousand dollars I want to invest in PNG forestry in a credit project. How might I go about doing this? Well for a start, I don't actually want to buy anything physical like a forest. I want to buy the rights to trade. And I want to part with as little money as possible initially, because I want to buy as many rights as possible.

I start a whirlwind tour of the provinces, the further the better. I make friends with the landowners and sweeten them up with cash and gifts.

I explain that the world needs to conserve forests because of something that has been put in the atmosphere, and that I'll act as a broker for them to make sure they get the best deal. I'll take a percentage, and maybe a fee.

I sign deals with the landowners that gives me the sole rights to negotiate and sell carbon on their behalf.

All I have to do now is hire a few consultants to buff out a few reports about how big the trees are and how happy all the locals are, and I'd be very nicely set up to do a massive post-Copenhagen deal.

What is more, if the consultant's reports look particularly convincing, I might even be able to recoup my initial investment at a very early stage by getting further infusions of investment by selling off a portion of my rights to someone else, perhaps in the form of some kind of option for REDD credits. With more cash in hand, I go off again in search of more rights to buy.

What makes all this even more fabulous a proposal is that if anyone complains about what I am doing, or questions its transparency or processes, I can cite commercial confidentiality and then complain to all and sundry about how all I am trying to do is save the world and give local people some kind of way of surviving without cutting down their trees.

I'm a good person and all these horrid people just want to make me out to look like I'm doing something wrong.

Some of these deals may be absolutely fine, we just don't know. What we need in PNG, is some way of publicly notifying these deals.

A simple way of doing this would be government-backed project deal webpages. Proposed forest carbon deals should be published on them, so that if any landowners feel there is something awry, or there are competing claims, this should be immediately apparent, and these claims should be published.

Kamula Doso is a legal nightmare. We don't want more of these cases. This is not simply private business. All these companies want to sell credits on the mandatory markets.

It’s going to be our money that is buying these credits. We have a right to more information. If companies want privacy over their deals, they have to guarantee that these credits will not be traded on mandatory markets.

It’s a small price to pay for access to a billion dollar public market that is ultimately paid for by higher taxes and fuel prices in developed nations.

Finally, given that there is a legitimate public interest, we really do need to know what the landowners understand by these deals and what they've been told.

In medical research a concept that has developed is "informed consent", it isn't just enough for a subject to say yes to an experiment or procedure, you have to be able to provide proof that the people who have agreed have sufficient understanding of what they have agreed to.

I wonder if this might be a useful concept for these environmental deals with local landowners. Here is a standard definition:

"Informed consent is a legal procedure to ensure that a patient or client knows all of the risks and costs involved in a treatment. The elements of informed consents include informing the client of the nature of the treatment, possible alternative treatments, and the potential risks and benefits of the treatment. In order for informed consent to be considered valid, the client must be competent and the consent should be given voluntarily"

In conclusion: More transparency over deals. Where they are being done, what financial arrangements and promises have been made, and what the landowners really understand and have been told.

I'm all in favor of markets for environmental services. But let’s recall that this is a special market, created entirely by legislation, for a policy outcome which is less carbon in the atmosphere for the least cost.

While the private sector must be given the incentives the world needs to invest money, this market will never sit comfortably with massive windfall profits, whomever they fall to. That is just one of the current unresolved debates underway over REDD.

Note: Manson studies Masters of Science in Petroleum Engineering at China University of Geosciences in Wuhan City, Hubei Province.

4 comments:

oakleyses said...

ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, tiffany jewelry, nike roshe, nike free run, christian louboutin uk, tory burch outlet, polo ralph lauren, sac longchamp pas cher, gucci handbags, jordan shoes, ugg boots, nike air max, ray ban sunglasses, burberry pas cher, replica watches, cheap oakley sunglasses, nike free, longchamp outlet, nike outlet, polo outlet, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, longchamp outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, polo ralph lauren outlet online, air max, nike air max, kate spade outlet, oakley sunglasses, christian louboutin, prada handbags, ugg boots, louis vuitton, louis vuitton outlet, replica watches, chanel handbags, christian louboutin shoes, christian louboutin outlet, longchamp pas cher, uggs on sale, jordan pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin pas cher, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, prada outlet

oakleyses said...

kate spade, polo lacoste, sac hermes, sac vanessa bruno, nike air max uk, true religion outlet, true religion jeans, burberry outlet, vans pas cher, hollister uk, michael kors outlet online, coach purses, mulberry uk, converse pas cher, coach outlet, michael kors outlet, nike air max, guess pas cher, nike free uk, michael kors, north face uk, michael kors outlet, nike blazer pas cher, true religion outlet, uggs outlet, lululemon canada, hollister pas cher, michael kors, nike roshe run uk, abercrombie and fitch uk, true religion outlet, ray ban pas cher, michael kors outlet online, ray ban uk, coach outlet store online, nike air max uk, new balance, oakley pas cher, north face, nike air force, michael kors outlet online, timberland pas cher, uggs outlet, ralph lauren uk, burberry handbags, michael kors outlet online, nike tn

oakleyses said...

longchamp uk, oakley, new balance shoes, abercrombie and fitch, hollister, p90x workout, chi flat iron, ferragamo shoes, hollister clothing, nike air max, wedding dresses, nike trainers uk, vans outlet, ralph lauren, louboutin, babyliss, valentino shoes, insanity workout, reebok outlet, baseball bats, nike air max, lululemon, vans, instyler, north face outlet, bottega veneta, timberland boots, mac cosmetics, ray ban, converse, converse outlet, celine handbags, jimmy choo outlet, hermes belt, herve leger, nike huaraches, soccer shoes, mcm handbags, north face outlet, giuseppe zanotti outlet, iphone cases, nfl jerseys, gucci, asics running shoes, ghd hair, nike roshe run, soccer jerseys, beats by dre, hollister, mont blanc pens

oakleyses said...

doudoune moncler, thomas sabo, montre pas cher, barbour uk, canada goose outlet, karen millen uk, louis vuitton, moncler, swarovski crystal, moncler outlet, canada goose, ugg pas cher, pandora charms, canada goose outlet, marc jacobs, replica watches, louis vuitton, pandora jewelry, moncler, barbour, canada goose, moncler, pandora uk, moncler, toms shoes, louis vuitton, supra shoes, ugg, lancel, ugg uk, coach outlet, links of london, pandora jewelry, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose outlet, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, canada goose uk, swarovski, juicy couture outlet, moncler outlet, juicy couture outlet, louis vuitton, hollister, canada goose, canada goose jackets, moncler uk, wedding dresses, louis vuitton