Subsidies for monoculture tree plantations (Newsletter #4)

Currently, any plantation established on land that was forested after 1 January 1990 is excluded from the CDM. But the CDM EB is now considering a new possibility to include lands with “forests in exhaustion” as A/R CDM project activities. The results will be presented in December 2009 at COP-15 in Copenhagen.

The term forests in exhaustion (FE) was proposed by Brazil at COP-14 in Poznan and was used for the first time in Decision 2/CMP.4. But in the forestry sector this expression has not been used so far and a specific description or definition endorsed by international organizations such as FAO, IPCC, etc. is not available. Therefore, a consultative expert body was asked to “assess the implications of the possible inclusion of lands with forests in exhaustion as afforestation and reforestation as clean development mechanism project activities (CDM)”. The result was first discussed during the 49th EB meeting in September 2009 and served as the basis for a proposed definition for forests in exhaustion which was drawn up by the Afforestation/Reforestation Working Group. The proposed definition is as follows:

“Forest in exhaustion is area of land containing forest – established through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources – on 31 December 1989 and/or at the starting date of the project activity. If the land at the starting date of the project activity is forest then, in absence of the project activity, it will be converted to non-forested land through final harvesting within [X] years of starting date of the project activity. If the land at the starting date of the project activity is non-forested land then, in absence of the project activity, it is expected to remain as non-forested land.”

CDM Watch is stunned about this proposal. This new definition would literally mean that an afforestation project could be implemented on land which is already forest. This is completely absurd. The definition may even include land areas with existing plantations or forests andbuilds on the hypothetical assumption that they would be “finally harvested” at some point in the future. This basically means nothing else than forest management would be allowed under the CDM which would severely contradict the agreement reached in Marrakech.

This is a very arbitrary approach, opening considerable potential for gaming. In practice, Brazil’s proposal would not benefit the climate but it would provide massive subsidies for forest management in existing monoculture tree plantations.

According to the REDD-monitor, Brazil’s “forests in exhaustion” CDM proposal would be a disaster for forests and for the climate and create a massive subsidy for industrial tree plantations. For more information about the impacts of this proposal and Brazil’s alleged motivations, please see Why Brazil is interested in “forests in exhaustion”.

Action to be taken by the Board: The Board should recommend to CMP.5 that this proposal undermines the goals of the CDM as laid out in decisions by the COP/MOP Kyoto Protocol Article 12(b): “the purpose of the clean development mechanism is to assist Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention in achieving sustainable development and in contributing to the ultimate objective of the Convention.” The EB should further report that no recognized definitions of “forest in exhaustion” exist and that the consideration of situations where a forest was existing at the start of the project activity would introduce forest manangement as an activity in the CDM.