“More Forest, Less Bank!” Protecting the World’s Forests Will Take More than Money

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Media reports on last month’s Bali conference focused almost exclusively on what happened inside the conference hall and in negotiating sessions. But while politicians and bureaucrats haggled over the details of their toothless “Action Plan,” something quite different was happening outside.

Dozens of activist groups also met in Bali, laying the basis for a revived and expanded global movement for climate justice. Climate and Capitalism has previously reported on the formation of the Climate Justice Now! Coalition (here), and on the draft People’s Protocol on Climate Change (here and here).

The following report, by Janet Redman of Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, and Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition, describes another action that was ignored by the capitalist press.

A very diverse group of non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples organizations and social movements staged a protest on December 11 outside of a press conference where World Bank President and former US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced the launch of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.“This Facility is merely the World Bank up to their old tricks,” stated Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project. “They’ve packaged up their carbon trading agenda under the guise of forest protection, when in fact this Facility will result in more forest destruction, more displacement of indigenous peoples and more carbon emissions. It’s a lose-lose-lose proposition for everyone but big business,” she added.

Close to 100 people stood outside of the press conference facility chanting slogans and staging a die-in, with different people representing island nations, indigenous and women’s groups, ecosystems and species that are threatened with annihilation from climate change. They charge that the focus of the World Bank on profit-oriented “false solutions,” like carbon trading and carbon offset projects including industrial tree plantations, is actually contributing to an acceleration of climate change.

“While pretending to be concerned about climate change and poverty, The World Bank has continued to fund fossil fuel exploitation to the tune of $8 billion since 2000,” explained Janet Redman, a researcher with the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network. “At the same time, they’ve done virtually nothing to bring clean energy to the 1.6 billion people without electricity,” she added.

“The World Bank is channeling over $2 billion from the most polluting industries in the industrialized north to the most polluting companies in the global south, while profiting handsomely from so-called ‘overhead,’” added Anna Pinto of the Center for Organizations, Research & Education. “The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility is merely more of the same. It is also violating the rights of indigenous peoples to prior and informed consent as laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” she concluded.

The very vocal and empassioned protest continued for 35 minutes with chants including “World Bank: Hands Off!” “Robert Zoellick You Can’t Hide: Carbon Trading is a Crime,” “More Forest: Less Bank!” and “Land Rights Now!”

Titi Soentoro, of the Indonesian Civil Society Forum and the Gender Caucus read the following statement.

Governments meeting in Bali, Indonesia for the 13th Conference of the Parties/3rd Meeting of the Parties to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 3-14 December 2007, need to recognise that this may be our last opportunity to stop runaway climate change and that with 18-20% of annual carbon emissions being caused by deforestation, protecting our forests is a key part of this.This problem is made even more important because forests are a key part of the earth’s carbon and hydrological cycles. Without forests rainfall will fail in many regions. Yet forests themselves are being impacted by climate change and may already be losing their ability to regulate the planet’s climate. Further increases in temperature threaten to increase heat stress and drought, causing forests, particularly tropical forests, to become net sources of emissions, rather than stores. Furthermore, deforestation can also trigger irreversible ecosystem die-back.

Governments and intergovernmental organisations, including the World Bank, have responded by submitting a number of proposals concerning ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation’ (RED) and, in the case of the Bank, a proposal to launch a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. However, these proposals, especially those that argue that forests should be included in carbon markets as offsets, fall far short of what is needed to combat climate change swiftly and effectively.

Carbon trading and offsetting are being used as a smoke-screen to ward off legislation and delay the urgent action needed to cut emissions and develop alternative low-carbon solutions. At the same time they encourage businesses, governments and people to continue with or even increase unnecessary polluting activities – reducing life to a commodity to be bought and sold.

Despite all these concerns, because carbon finance mechanisms hold the prospect of spectacular commercial profit in what may become one of the largest commodity markets in the world, they are at the top of many governmental and commercial agendas here in Bali.

Yet the UNFCCC’s project- and trading-based emissions reductions schemes to date have been totally ineffective in terms of their ability to significantly reduce emissions. The UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which was launched in Kyoto in December 1997, was intended to allow countries with emissions reductions targets under the Kyoto Protocol to invest in projects that lead to developing countries being able to reduce their emissions more cheaply.

The CDM has not worked. Projects have tended to lead to excessive profits for business, whilst generating investment for many projects that would have happened anyway. Several years of carbon trading have not stopped increasing rates of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, studies show they may be resulting in an overall increase in emissions. Many projects are not ‘clean’ nor are they leading to poverty alleviation or sustainable development, as intended.

The World Bank has an equally appalling track record in relation to carbon funding, not least because it continues to fund oil, gas and mining projects, despite recommendations from its own review which suggested most of these projects be rapidly phased out; and as a broker it has a vested interest in promoting carbon trading. Its planned Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) –intended to channel carbon finance from donors to recipient countries – could also have serious negative social and environmental impacts.

Carbon financing is proving intensely inequitable. Forests are the home and source of livelihoods for over 1.6 billion people, including Indigenous peoples, and forest-dependent communities. Wealthy companies and countries are able to buy the right to continue to pollute, whilst poor communities often find themselves locked into unfavourable, long-term commercial contracts. Furthermore, forest-dependent Indigenous Peoples and local communities have already found that it is they who may have to bear the real cost of climate mitigation projects based on carbon finance, while garnering none of the benefits. Some carbon finance projects are subsidizing industrial tree plantations at the expense of communities, ecosystems and food production.

The proposed RED policies could trigger further displacement, conflict and violence, as forests themselves increase in value they are declared ‘off limits’ to communities that live in them or depend on them for their livelihoods. Women and Indigenous Peoples are the least likely to profit from the destruction of forests and therefore also the least likely to receive compensation. Carbon finance mechanisms result in forests being transferred or sold off to large companies who aim to acquire profitable ‘carbon credits’ at some point in the future.

Carbon markets, like other commodities, are also proving notoriously volatile. Far from creating a predictable commercial environment and financial flows, the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme Phase I, for example, has had “very questionable effects” on “the extent to which emissions are reduced, and the extent to which it provides a stable and effective carbon price” (UK Environmental Audit Committee, 28 February 2007). The protection of forests and our climate is essential to all our futures and should not be subject to the vagaries of the market.


We are calling for governments to:

  • address the direct and underlying ‘drivers’ of deforestation and the destruction of biodiversity in other ecosystems which are also critical to climate stability by reducing demand for agricultural and forest products and energy; removing trade and investment liberalisation rules that fuel deforestation; and stopping corruption.
  • ensure that all forest protection programs are based upon and uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples (as laid down in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), women and local communities, by prohibiting any actions that seek to exclude Indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities from ‘conservation’ areas. Outstanding land and tenure questions and the free and prior informed consent of affected communities should be addressed as a prerequisite, before the implementation of any such programs.
  • give the highest priority to halting the development, production and trade of agrofuels, and suspend all targets and other incentives, including subsidies, carbon trading and public and private finance related to the development and production of agrofuels.
  • keep forests out of carbon finance mechanisms, which are unpredictable, inequitable and discourage the reduction of emissions at source. This includes keeping forests out of the Clean Development Mechanism and all carbon trading initiatives; and rejecting the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).
  • ensure that developing countries are assisted in their efforts to protect their forests with well targeted, predictable and sufficient financial and other support, in the form of an international fund that rewards the complete rather than partial cessation of deforestation; supports policies that promote community-based forest management and reforestation, natural regeneration and ecosystem restoration; and finances a global forest fire fighting fund and expertise, to assist countries unable to prevent or stop out-of-control forest fires.
  • redirect the very substantial amounts of public funds, tax exemptions and other forms of subsidies currently provided to the fossil fuel and agrofuels industries, into avoided deforestation assistance funds, the effective promotion of public transport and the development of solar, wind, geothermal, wave and energy efficiency technologies, (Government spending on energy subsidies currently totals US$250 billion per year.)
  • ensure that funds are not used to compensate logging and plantation companies and others involved in large-scale deforestation.
  • strengthen weak forest conservation policies and institutions, encouraging bans or moratoria on industrial logging and forest conversion, and addressing corruption and lack of enforcement.
  • implement a moratorium on all public financing and subsidies of oil, coal and gas exploration, and rapidly phase in subsidies for clean energy alternatives with just transition programmes to phase out existing fossil fuel activities, whilst protecting ecosystems, communities and food production from agrofuels.

Signed by:

Amigos de la Tierra/Friends of the Earth Spain; Asamblea Patagonica contra el Saquco y la Contaminacion, Patagonia, Argentina; Asociación Quechua Aymara para las Comunidades Sustentables, ANDES, Perú; Biofuelwatch; Carbon Trade Watch; Centro de Defeso dos Direitos Humanos, Brazil; COECOCEIBA/Friends of the Earth Costa Rica; Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, Colombia; Cresente Fertil, Brazil; Down to Earth; Earth Savers Movement; Ecologistas en Acción, Spain; Ecological Society of the Philippines; Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative; FERN; Focus on the Global South; Foundation for Ecological Security, India; Freunde der Naturvoelker e.V./ Friends of Peoples close to Nature, Germany; Friends of the Earth Argentina; Friends of the Earth Australia; Friends of the Earth International; Global Forest Coalition; Global Justice Ecology Project, US; Grupo Reflexion Rural, Argentina; HATOF Foundation, Ghana; ICTI – Indonesia; ILSA; Indigenous Environmental Network; Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network; International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests; Kalikasan – People’s Network for the Environment, Philippines; Madre Tierra/ Friends of the Earth Honduras; Mangrove Action Project; MONLAR, Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform, Sri Lanka; National Farmers Assembly, Sri Lanka; Nature Alert; NOAH/ Friends of the Earth Denmark; O le Siosiomaga Society, Samoa; Ökumenischer Arbeitskreis “Christen & Ökologie”, Germany; Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition; Quaker Concern for Animals, UK; Red de Alternativas a la Impunidad y la Globalización; Regional Advisory Information and Network (RAINS), Ghana; Rettet den Regenwald , Germany; Salva la Selva, Ecuador; Sobrevivencia/ Friends of the Earth Paraguay; Sociedad Ecologica Regional (A Ho Valle y Comarca Andina, Argentina; Sustainable Energy and Economic Network; Swiss Working Group on Colombia (Grupo de Trabajo Suiza Colombia); Tamil Nadu Environment Council (TNEC), India; Tebtebba, Philippines; Terre des hommes-Arbeitsgruppe Schwäbisch Gmünd / Germany; Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa; Transnational Institute; Via Campesina; WALHI/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia; Watch Indonesia! Germany; World Rainforest Movement; Xàrxa de l’Observatori del Deute en la Globalització, Barcelona, Catalunya

1 Comment

  • These activists very rightly identify The World Bank as a propagator of atmospheric pollution, via its investment policies. Worse than that, The World Bank, like the World Trade Organisation, is little more than a ‘front organisation’ for American capitalism. It takes its orders from Washington and will NEVER go against the wishes of its master, the USA. Its primary object is to bring about a New World Order in which American capitalism controls the economy of the entire world.

    Like its master, it is an evil body. Developing countries would be well advised to look elsewhere when seeking investment to help with their development. The conditions imposed by The World Bank are punitive, leading to chronic debt and the imposition of a capitalist system (i.e. no state control) that leaves the victim country open to the theft of its wealth by International corporations and the corruption of its leaders.