(Green) Economy

Article - December 2012

Business wants access to resources, capital and markets, and a seat at the global policy development table in order ensure it has a licence to operate. At a time of growing concern about pressure on natural resources and the need for sustainability, business also has to talk about biodiversity and sustainable development as a means to secure its business targets. But its motives, influence and outcomes in terms of biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefits need to be assessed. Before COP12, steps should be taken to reduce the direct and indirect influence of business on biodiversity decisions in order to assert the primacy of biodiversity as part of our global commons, to be governed by the CBD, not the corporate sector.
At COP 11, business was omnipresent. There were more than 70 events described as ‘business-related’ around COP11 in Hyderabad. It is worth looking a little more closely at the groupings involved. For example, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), originally commissioned by the G8 +5 was linked to several of them. The TEEB for Business Coalition has powerful founder members including a UK accountancy institute, large conservation organisations and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which was involved in 3 side events. This is a very large group whose emergence dates back to the Earth Summit of 1992. Top business clusters within WBCSD include 23 utilities and power companies, 17 oil and gas, 17 engineering, 17 chemical companies, 13 consumer goods, 13 cement, 12 mining and 11 tyre companies.

Article - May 2012

On May 2nd 2012 a paper appeared in Nature entitled: A global synthesis reveals biodiversity
loss as a major driver of ecosystem change. It analyses existing data to show that biodiversity loss and extinctions are altering processes fundamental to ecosystem functioning and resilience, with major implications for us all. This is not a new message, but one that has constantly been ignored.

Briefing - April 2012

Biofuels, Bioenergy, Biochar and the Technologies of the new Bioeconomy

Industrial scale bioenergies, including biofuels are rapidly expanding, creating massive new demand for wood, vegetable oil and agricultural products. Already these demands are inflicting serious and irreversible impacts on forests and other natural ecosystems, soils and water resources. Expansion of industrial monocultures, including tree plantations, to meet this demand occurs at the expense of biodiversity and food production, while also contributing to “land grabs”, undermining the rights of peasant farmers and indigenous peoples, and hampering efforts to achieve food sovereignty and agrarian reform.
The CBD Secretariat's report rightly acknowledges many of these negative impacts. However, in line with COP10 decision X/37, it focuses predominantly on 'tools', i.e. standards and certification, to address the often complex direct and indirect negative impacts, without assessing whether those tools are credible instruments.
Standards and certification schemes per se have not been effective and are no match for countering the drivers of bioenergy expansion: targets, mandates and subsidies, especially in Europe and North America. To effectively address the negative impacts, those incentives need to be eliminated.

Submission - July 2011

A submission to the CBD Secretariat concerning decision X/3

With Decision X/3, A, paragraph 8(c) "invites parties, relevant organisations and initiatives.[...] to submit information concerning innovative financial mechanisms that have potential to generate new and additional financial resources as well as possible problems that could undermine achievement of the Convention's three objectives [...]".
This submission focuses on experiences with offset programmes, showing examples and concerns that have arisen from them and that are relevant to ideas of developing biodiversity offset systems or similar mechanisms.

Article - April 2011

With next year’s Rio+20 Earth Summit due to meet in the ‘biofuel republic of Brazil’ it is little wonder that the fights over agrofuels will be intensifying in the years ahead. UNEP’s flagship ‘Green Economy’ study published last month appears to bless a massive expansion of agrofuel – advocating for over a fifth (21.6%) of all liquid fuels to be bio‐based by 2050. Sourcing all that biological feedstock is a feat that even UNEP admit will gobble up over a third (37%) of global agricultural and forest ‘residues’ – a hefty take from already overstressed ecosystems.

Article - March 2011

Discussions on funding, financial targets and innovative financial mechanisms were extremely difficult during the COP10 in Nagoya in October 2010 and clearly revealed the divide between North and South. They also reflect a wider struggle going on over the effectiveness and implications of market‐oriented approaches to the three Rio Conventions, including biodiversity
conservation. This struggle that is going to be central for "Rio+20", the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development where 'green economy' is one of the two main topics on the agenda.

Article - March 2011

At the recent preparatory conference for Rio+20 in New York (7-8th March) it became clear that the “green economy” concept is complicating an already difficult process. Definitions of sustainable development have been argued over for years; now we are invited instead to see everything in terms of a “green economy”. UNEP, which produced its massive economics-dominated report shortly before the prepcom/conference, defines the “green economy” as one that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Thus the biodiversity and ecosystem resilience on which we all depend are reduced to “risks” and “scarcities”. Even though it is clear that the “green economy” means very different things to different interests, many parties simply parroted the phrase over and over; Bolivia was one of the few that commented critically, noting that there is not a shared vision of what the "green economy" might be.

Briefing - November 2010

In discussions about climate, market interests are of course focused on finance and how the market can participate. In this context, market interests include not just carbon markets, but also land and commodity markets, mining, timber and paper, that hope to profit from offsets. There is a real risk that their increased participation could give market mechanisms, traders and investors more power over development and also over land than developing countries and their peoples. Before they will commit, market players want incentives to invest, voluntary standards, enhanced returns, reduced risk and guarantees against failure to deliver. Private investors want to greatly expand the carbon markets, where money can be made in the short term, in order to attract traders. They hope to gain from multiple market devices linked to claimed carbon sequestration or emission reductions. This briefing raises some of the issues that must be considered, especially by developing countries and their peoples.

Briefing - November 2010 - Spanish

Carbon traders and high emitting Parties would like all land-use to count as carbon sinks to offset sources, delay reducing emissions and make money for carbon markets. There is more than one route to this goal: REDD++ could be one way, and CDM in LULUCF is another, as we shall see. Parties could also be enabled to use every current and future market-based mechanism to meet their reduction commitments. This briefing provides background to these key issues for Cancun.

Article - May 2010

Following Copenhagen the message is clear: if we do not act swiftly, industrial agriculture could soon claim large rewards from carbon trading by being recognized as a carbon sink. We know that climate change has the potential to irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. But we also know that industrial agriculture is a major cause of climate change, so how can rewarding it with carbon credits help reduce its climate impacts?
The Land Magazine: http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/