Value the Tree Not the Carbon

Sustainable Development NOT ‘Green Economy

In Rio 1992 a clear message was given to countries with the advanced technology and highest GDP at the time by developing nations along the lines of ‘You have failed to sustainably protect your own natural resources, you have deforested and been unable to halt biodiversity losses, why should we listen to you telling us to protect what we have when we have a higher population to feed and wealth is still the only proven method to do this.’

Various initiatives loosely based on sustainable development and protecting biodiversity were subsequently tested and after 20 years very little success is evident, and the most successful are hidden away because they do not make vast sums of money suddenly appear in the trading centres. So what is to be placed on the table now – the ingredients to making that money appear – a new ‘green economy’, or GDP+ as Spelman likes to call it. And this time round it has the endorsement of many of the NGOs who sat in the fringe discussions or were outside waving banners 20 years ago.

Carbon trading is clearly not working, but it will continue to be touted because the corporate NGOs, unlike businesses and even policy makers, can re sell a dead horse again and again and still profit.

My use of corporate NGO here is important if we are to protest against offsetting as there has to be a distinction made between the three main types of NGOs in the arena. There is a huge difference between the majority of small NGOs that get on with what they do and the ‘Corporate NGO’, whose existence and complicity with policy making and businesses needs a new tier of small NGOs dedicated in watching them.

For example take the International Tree Foundation, one of the oldest NGOs dedicated to trees and sustainable forestry in the world. They have always and continue to help people in their place grow trees for a localised purpose and this has a huge knock on in progressing real local sustainable development. Because people, whether a farming community in rural Africa or a Village school committee in England, invariably know exactly what the issues are in that locality, the initiatives are tailoured and precise with an injection of money paying towards tools, trees and help in getting an existing community going forward on a sustainable track.

Now take the WWF, a powerful and wealthy organisation, one that has embraced the ideals of REDD+ and of believing that empowerment is through greater financial control in the hands of large environmental NGOs, without accreditation but manipulating certification. But money cannot make an instant community. Money corrupts, it always will and the more money there is the bigger the corruption to the extent of even creating pseudo communities just to get hands on the cash.

The former is Sustainable Development, the latter Green Economy.

The proposed ‘green economy’ to be sold at Rio +20 is based on arrogance, on a basic assumption that local people are incapable of managing their own resources. The NGOs and Think Tanks have led policy makers towards a utopian vision of trading the carbon and now the biodiversity of a specific location into a wider international economy.

This is not about rewarding a community for what they have in their landscape; the carbon or biodiversity which communities from the green belt of London to an Indigenous tribe in the Amazonian have protected or maintained, but is to take this carbon or biodiversity pool, sell it’s existence and give them a little something back in return. Money for an immeasurable resource to be used as an incentive for companies to more than wash away any guilty conscience but to actually believe they are philanthropists.

Biodiversity offsetting is a means for a developer to buy off community protest about the destruction of a habitat through payment to a corporate NGO, allowing the company to consolidate funding a social aspect of Sustainable Development, (tax relief partnering with an NGO), with funding planning gains  

So the community loses local habitat that may also be vital green space for wellbeing as well as biodiversity, the council loses out also with reduced potential funding for local community needs and the developer loses out by allowing the sale of something no scientist on the planet can truly define.

We haven’t yet fully investigated the links to biodiversity and carbon, particularly in soils, we really don’t know what is to be traded and science is far from adequately funded to provide the answer anytime soon. Combined with the malfeasance of PR or thinktanks ‘translating’ their own (often bizarre) take on research secured away from most of us behind pay walls it all plays into the hands of lobbyists who can say what they want with no consequence.

The ‘green’ economy is coming, but forget the sustainable or environmental definition of green and choose one or all of the following more fitting definitions.

‘not fully developed or perfected in growth or condition; unripe; not properly aged’

‘simple; unsophisticated; gullible; easily fooled’.

‘having a sickly appearance; pale; wan’

This deviation from the road towards real Sustainable Development is purely because of money and the fear upon the realisation that true SD comes from a bottom up approach. It starts in a location, with the people in that location and the empowerment of a local economy. It can start with the most valuable and essential asset in that location, the soils and the trees that soil can grow. 

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2 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

2 responses to “Value the Tree Not the Carbon

  1. Antony Croft

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article, it offers real empowerment to local people to stand up for their landscapes and say “hands off” were doing it our way you patronising, lying, cheating sons of….

  2. kili

    Magnificent comdemnation of the nonsense of carbon trade. I had not heard of attempts to do likewise with biodiversity but nothing shocks me anymore as with the way the big environmental campaigners are lining up to take money from a system they should be questioning. This sorry state of affairs means that simple membership withdrawal is no effective protest and many of these environmental groups were inevitably going to accept to irrestible payments from many including government who saw the potential to capitilise on the freedom from regulation and scrutiny these groups have and the blind eye to their activity the public have.

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