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Carbon credits for agrofuels

Dec 16

Written by:
16/12/2009 14:34  RssIcon

UN carbon credits for destructive palm oil plantations


According to the website Rainforest Rescue, a UN board has decided that soya, palm oil and other agrofuel plantations can now receive carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The agrofuel industry, already boosted by EU and US targets, incentives and subsidies, can now look forward to hundreds of millions from extra subsidies.


Vast carbon dioxide emissions from coal power stations in Europe can now be officially ‘offset’ by companies paying for soya plantations in Brazil or palm oil plantations in Indonesia or Thailand, which in turn will cause more deforestation and other ecosystem destruction and thus, also, more climate change.


The CDM was set up under the Kyoto Protocol and allows Northern countries to ‘offset’ greenhouse gas emissions by paying for projects in the South, instead of cutting their own emissions.


There is clear evidence that most of the CDM carbon credits go towards polluting industries in the South, routinely at the expense of local communities, their rights and their environment. In future, more and more CDM carbon credits will go towards monoculture plantations in the South – now including soya, palm oil and jatropha plantations for agrofuels.


The new CDM rules for agrofuels state that plantations must be on ‘degraded and degrading land’. This definition is so wide that, for example, any land where vegetation is declining because of increased droughts and heat due to climate change would fall under it, also any land suffering from soil erosion or soil compaction. Yet industrial monocultures are the quickest way of degrading soils, destroying biodiversity and polluting and depleting water.


The CDM Board’s decision to back agrofuel monocultures was based on two industry applications: One was put forward by the agribusiness firm Agrenco, who hope to get extra funding through the carbon markets for soya plantations in the Brazilian state in Mato Grosso. Mato Grosso has the highest rate of deforestation inside the Legal Amazon, primarily due to soya monocultures.


Wooded Cerrado savannah, which is the world’s most biodiverse savannah, is also being destroyed for soya in Mato Grosso and with it the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and other communities. Furthermore, Mato Grosso is one of two states in the Brazilian Amazon with the highest rate of illegal land appropriation, common amongst plantation companies.


The second proposal on which the decision is based was for palm oil biodiesel expansion in Thailand. The Thai government is promoting oil palm expansion from 400,000 hectares in 2006 to 1.6 million hectares by 2029.


Plantations are being rapidly expanded in watershed forests, wetlands, community public forests and rice fields. Rainfall in Thailand tends to be lower than is required by oil palms, hence serious freshwater depletion is inevitable.


According to the Thai organisation Project for Ecological Awareness: “If an expansion of the oil palm plantation area was made according to the government’s plan, Thailand would irreversibly lose its food security, biological diversity, as well as the world’s invaluable lung.”


Visit to send an email to the members of the CDM Executive Board, in order to protest against this decision and to demand that it be reversed immediately.





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