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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

REDD Critic

Air Date: Week of

California's hope to offset its carbon by buying credits in rainforest nations may not really help, says a recent Greenpeace report. Roman Paul Czebiniak, a Greenpeace Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Forests explains why to host Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: From November, California will phase in a state-wide cap and trade system that allows polluting companies to buy carbon offsets from REDD projects in the developing world. Roman Paul Czebiniak is a Greenpeace Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Forests. He says the problem with the California plan is one of scale.

CZEBINIAK: We’re very much in favor of financing forest protection at many different levels. Our issues is with the push for including sub-national forest offset projects into the carbon markets in a way that would allow industrial polluters to continue to emit in California and elsewhere.

CURWOOD: What’s the downside of letting large carbon polluters in California buy some offsets?

CZEBINIAK: There are three key problems. And the first is that sub-national forest offsets that are being considered here have not been proven to deliver real additional emission reductions. So, if you’re exchanging fake reductions for real reductions, you’re actually making the climate crisis even worse. I think the second problem - studies at Stanford University and elsewhere have shown - that the sub-national offset approach could actually do more harm than good by creating a disincentive to national-level reductions in different sectors.

And, finally, the markets are very good at delivering a specific commodity at the lowest possible cost. And in the framework of forests, you’re dealing with very complex ecosystems, which have people who have lived there for millennia, and rich biodiversity, and foods for the planet. So the risk is that by focusing on the forest, you could lose the forest for the trees.

CURWOOD: Now, REDD projects have to go through many rounds of verifications and certifications before their carbon credits are ever allowed on the market. How satisfied are you with the results from that level of scrutiny or do you see problems with the quality of these projects?

CZEBINIAK: Well, you’re certainly right to point out that there are many voluntary standards out there, there are many verification bodies out there, but complexity is not a sufficient substitute for accuracy. If you’re claiming emissions reductions, how do we know that those reductions are real, rather than just business as usual?

CURWOOD: The Greenpeace report looks at a forest carbon project in Chiapas, Mexico as a case study. Can you tell me what you found there?

CZEBINIAK: Sure. Greenpeace sent a team to investigate the REDD program in Chiapas to see whether or not its delivering on its claim of emissions reductions. And what we found is a significant lack of transparency in what is being promoted. Among other things, no baseline has been established, so we don’t know whether or not it’s achieving additional emissions reductions or whether it’s just business as usual. Since there’s no national applicable monitoring program, there’s no way to know whether it’s actually reducing deforestation, or whether it’s simply displacing deforestation to another part of the country.

CURWOOD:Let me ask you a basic philosophical question of Greenpeace… the Kyoto Protocol calls for national-level trading of emissions. How does Greenpeace view the national-level trading emissions to begin with?

CZEBINIAK: Greenpeace isn’t opposed to carbon trading on any philosophical level. But when we look at the world’s largest offset market, the Clean Development Mechanism, it contains many lessons that we should consider when we’re looking at the issue of REDD in California. One of these issues is: are we creating a disincentive national-level to reduction of emissions by giving countries credit for doing something on a much smaller scale.

CURWOOD: So, some in Greenpeace would say that all of the participation that China has had in the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto process, that that’s for nought?

CZEBINIAK: Certainly seems to be the case, that this CDM has provided a active disincentive for China to take action on climate change. Look, China has so far opposed action, precisely because it gets money and credit for doing something on a much smaller scale. We’re concerned that the same thing will happen with REDD. We have an international climate change agreement where countries have committed to taking action on a national-level. And what California and others are pushing for is for those countries to do something that is significantly less.

CURWOOD: Roman Paul Czebiniak is a Senior Policy Advisor on Climate Change and Forests at Greenpeace International.



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