Activist countries

Poorer countries want to charge more to protect rainforests

For around $15, companies can offset a metric ton of their carbon emissions by purchasing a credit from Wildlife Works, a conservation organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is using the money to prevent slash-and-burn farmers from cutting down the world’s second largest rainforest, the Congo, by helping them transition to more forms of agriculture and other economic activities. durable. According to JR Bwangoy-Bankanza, director of Wildlife Works in the DRC, the $15 per credit, a price set by a UN-backed carbon market, is better than many similar schemes. “But that’s not enough,” he says. “For people to protect the forest, they need more income, and we need a [bigger] funding flow.

Bwangoy-Bankanza hopes a new alliance between the DRC, Indonesia and Brazil will change that. At the G20 summit in Bali on November 14, the trio, which is collectively home to 52% of the world’s rainforests, announced they would work together at international summits like COP27, the UN climate conference currently in progress. courses in Egypt, to obtain “payments to reduce deforestation.”

Oscar Soria, campaign manager for Avaaz, a US-based nonprofit, dubbed the new alliance an “OPEC for the rainforests,” referring to the cartel of major oil-producing nations that work together to influence world fuel prices. “Right now the developed countries that have the money are setting the tone for the conversations,” he says. “But an alliance of countries can actually have real power in the global marketplace and in international relations.”

The idea that wealthier countries should fund the protection of rainforests in developing regions, as they are vital for trapping carbon dioxide and slowing climate change, has been popular for decades. But conservationists have struggled to get donors or buyers of carbon credits to pay enough to put in place programs on a scale that can stop deforestation in time to save the climate. To change that, analysts expect the new alliance to seek a new funding mechanism and try to use its clout to raise prices for carbon credits, as well as share strategies to tackle deforestation.

This photo taken on June 20, 2020 shows Sumatran orangutans at the Soraya Research Station in the Leuser Rainforest in Subulussalam, Indonesia’s Aceh province.

CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP—Getty Images

This rainforest alliance, however, is far from exerting the same influence as OPEC, which has 60 years of investment and bureaucracy behind it: the joint statement issued by the three countries is light on how they plan to secure funding and implement new programs. . More information could emerge once Brazil’s recently elected leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has pledged to halt deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, takes office on January 1. (Brazil’s current government, led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, signed the deal, but parallel talks have taken place with Lula’s new representatives.) Lula is due to deliver a speech at COP27 on Wednesday.

But the collaboration between three southern countries appears to be an attempt to take control of the conversation on deforestation, amid growing frustration over what they see as discriminatory policy in northern countries. In July, Brazil, Indonesia and 12 other developing countries sent a letter to the EU protesting the bloc’s recently approved ban on imports of commodities linked to deforestation, calling it a decision ” unilateral action” that would harm the economies of developing countries without helping them. tackle the causes of environmental destruction.

The alliance is part of a trend that is evident during COP27. Frustrated by rich countries’ inability to provide enough climate finance through existing programs, developing countries are finding creative ways to get their due. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has launched a campaign for an overhaul of the IMF and World Bank to better serve countries in crisis. Speeches by leaders like Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have highlighted the “debt trap” posed by borrowing to clean up climate disasters, fueling interest in so-called “debt-for-climate” swaps. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are pushing their own “climate prosperity plans” to try to spur private sector investment instead of aid.

Activists demanding climate finance and debt relief for countries exposed to the effects of climate change protest during an impromptu demonstration during the COP27 climate conference on November 9, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  (Sean Gallup—Getty Images)

Activists demanding climate finance and debt relief for countries exposed to the effects of climate change protest during an impromptu demonstration during the COP27 climate conference on November 9, 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Sean Gallup—Getty Images

“We increasingly see coordinated responses to push for a transformation of the international financial system,” Soria said, “this will be seen as the COP where the global South has organized on new fronts to hold the North accountable.”

The Rainforest Alliance, however, is not a slam dunk for climate justice. Brazil, the DRC and Indonesia all have a history of violating the rights of indigenous groups and local communities who live in their rainforests, and a failure to prevent violence against environmental activists. civil society groups, of which Avaazexpressed concern that the agreement lacks an explicit commitment to correcting this history as part of access to increased funding.

Climate advocates also warn that it has been extremely difficult to prove that existing carbon offset programs in rainforests have had a significant impact on carbon sequestration, meaning any new programs created will need to include accounting mechanisms. solid.

Still, these kinds of developing country alliances are a useful opportunity to share knowledge about how to overcome these challenges, says Carolina Genin, Brazil’s climate director at the nonprofit World Resources Institute. “The problems are very similar, so the environmental and economic solutions are also similar.”

Brazilian President-elect Lula Da Silva during a campaign rally at Centro de Convenções Ulysses Guimarães on July 12, 2022 in Brasilia, Brazil.  (Andresa Anholete—Getty Images)

Brazilian President-elect Lula Da Silva during a campaign rally at Centro de Convenções Ulysses Guimarães on July 12, 2022 in Brasilia, Brazil.

Andressa Anholete—Getty Images

To obtain more financing, the alliance should be stimulated by the participation of Lula. Brazil’s new leader served as president from 2003 to 2010 and was known as a strong diplomatic voice for countries in the South and a champion of South-South collaboration. He also oversaw an 80% reduction in deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon and stepped up Brazil’s foreign aid to low-income countries. “Lula’s election is good news for developing countries,” says Genin.

Despite concerns, Bwangoy-Bankanza, the DRC environmentalist, is enthusiastic about the alliance. He says it could force wealthier nations, which destroyed their forest cover hundreds of years ago, to recognize the financial needs of countries like his. “So far nobody really cares about rainforests – even if their talk is good, they don’t recognize its importance,” he says. “We shouldn’t have to stay at this level of poverty while protecting everyone. And so, we can be compensated.

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Write to Ciara Nugent at [email protected]