New Political Threats To The Rain Forest
Friday February 1st… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉.
Happy February everyone. At the start of this new month, unfortunately, I see more political threats to one of the largest carbon syncs on the planet, the Earth’s rain forests. I’ve already written posts on Brazil’s Bolsonaro, who will likely allow vast tracks of the Amazon to be pillaged by various private corporations. Now we learn that there are others who may act similarly to Bolsonaro from an article posted this week:
Reposting this article:
World’s three biggest rainforests face year of precarious politics
Published on 28/01/2019, 8:32am
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia all face a year of political flux placing their vast rainforests in peril
Agriculture in Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Axel Fassio/CIFOR)
Political uncertainty hangs over large swathes of the world’s tropical forests this year, raising the risk of more destruction and carbon emissions.
Recent leadership changes in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and presidential elections in Indonesia this April, are fuelling concerns that politics could side with industries such as palm oil, timber, mining and agriculture in the world’s three biggest rainforest countries.
Brazil’s new right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to open the Amazon up to development. In his first foray on the international stage last week, he called on international businesses to invest in the country’s natural resources.
The DRC’s peaceful presidential election of Felix Tshisekedi last month was the first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 – although the African Union and European Union questioned the results and the Financial Times reported “massive electoral fraud”. It now remains to be seen whether Tshisekedi’s government curbs forest clearing and cracks down on the corruption that undermines conservation efforts. He gave little indication during the campaign.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, the two presidential candidates – incumbent Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) and ex-army officer Prabowo Subianto – have given vague promises of environmental protection but few details. That said, Jokowi, who won as an outsider populist in 2014, has done more than some expected to tackle deforestation.
As of 2015, Brazil was home to 12% of total forest global cover, the DRC nearly 4% and Indonesia 2%, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. But tree cover in all three continues to shrink. The actions of the new governments could determine the world’s ability to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.
“Forests could provide about a third of the solution to climate change, but at the moment they’re more part of the problem because of deforestation,” said Tim Christophersen, head of UN Environment’s freshwater, land and climate branch in Kenya. “If that was stopped and we could restore forests at a large scale, we could probably close about a third of the current emissions gap.”
For now, efforts to stem deforestation have mostly failed to make a dent. The tropics lost an area the size of Vietnam over 2016 and 2017, when tree cover shrunk by record levels, according to the data and monitoring website Global Forest Watch.
Brazil’s deforestation in 2017 was equivalent to 365 million tonnes of CO2 and jumped by almost 50% over the three months of campaigning before Bolsonaro was elected last year. The DRC’s tree cover loss was equivalent to 158Mt last year and Indonesia’s to 125Mt.
Environmentalists are particularly concerned about Brazil. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Bolsonaro stressed Brazil’s history of environmental protection while touting its economic opportunities.
But the “wave of forest destruction and violence” started when Bolsonaro immediately removed environmental and human rights safeguards, said Christian Poirier, programme director at the NGO Amazon Watch. “These reckless moves, tailored to serve Brazil’s agribusiness and extractive industries, undermine fundamental constitutional protections that preserve forests and assure the safety of the indigenous and traditional communities who call them home,” he said.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, deforestation remains relatively high and driven by clearing for agriculture, the use of wood for energy, timber and mining, said Christophersen. The UN’s REDD+ programme, which pays developing countries to reduce their deforestation, is starting to work in some places. But it was forced to freeze payments to the government last year amid concerns over the awarding of new logging concessions to Chinese companies. Peatlands across the Congo Basin could release huge stocks of carbon if developed for mining and fossil fuels, Christophersen added.
There is more optimism around Indonesia, although environmentalists are still wary.
Jokowi initially raised concerns that he would not follow through on his predecessor’s commitments on forestry, but then made progressive moves such as creating a new peatland restoration agency and extending a 2011 moratorium on licenses in forest and peatland, said Frances Seymour, distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute.
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Still, it will be up to the next president to cement that ban and push Indonesia’s large palm oil industry to become more sustainable, said Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of the Orangutan Information Centre in Indonesia. The country has around 69% of its natural forest intact, he said.
“I worry that with the current visions of the presidential candidates, they have no specific calls for the protection of this remaining forest,” Hadisiswoyo said. “This natural forest is the last limit for sustaining our biodiversity. I worry that this forest will have no guarantee to strive, to be kept as forest.”
There are some good signs. Costa Rica’s tree cover grew from 20% to around 50% over 30 years, Christophersen noted. And Indonesia’s loss dropped by 60% year-on-year in 2017, which Global Forest Watch attributed in part to a 2016 moratorium on peat drainage, educational campaigns and stronger enforcement.
“Without political leadership, we would not see with those kinds of successes,” Christophersen said.
However the potential for more damage remains strong – especially at a time of more nationalistic populist leaders such as Bolsonaro.
“A cross-cutting issue is how this global wave of populism plays out in the climate change debate, and in these countries how it plays out with respect to land use in particular,” said Seymour.
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- France aims to ban deforestation imports by 2030
- Colombia tree loss spikes as peace deal leads to land grabs
- Indonesia deforestation now ‘worse than Brazil’
- Brazil’s natural resources open for business, says Bolsonaro
As I’ve written before Populism is dangerous across the plant environmentally because it is nationally inward looking, not forward looking or thinking towards the future for sustainability, not allowing outside global interests who want to conserve natural resources of any given country. We will continue to observe the politics of every country in association with the climate issue, not just those that have extensive rain forests.
The countries of the Earth need to come together as they have done through history developing international agreements not only to prevent war but to fight that “Climate War.” To sum up my world view on the environment and the topic for today, peaceful unity is always better than self serving, inward isolationism.
Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:
Here are more ET reports from the last couple of days. The air mass that settled in over the Midwest by any standards was exceptionally frigid (These were also reported on yesterday’s post.):
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.)
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The Climate Guy