Shifting gears: From baseline data confusion to forest carbon markets

Following on this coverage, this week’s column begins a shift to a new area of focus. This will be on global trading in carbon credits (particularly forest carbon), used as offsets for CO2 emissions into the atmosphere generated by intensive carbon-based production. As readers know, historically, the rich countries have been the main atmospheric carbon polluters. They are the ones principally responsible for the present worrisomely high levels of concentration of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere. In this regard the United States has been the worst offender.

Contentious discussions

I make this shift in focus at a time when the international community has just completed some very heated and contentious discussions in Bonn, Germany (April 9-11) aimed at brokering an agreement to engage the threat of global warming and climate change. From press reports, the all-important rift or split between the positions of the United States and China on the way forward seems to have deepened. Presently, the Obama administration favours using the hastily put together Copenhagen Climate Accord, as the basis for moving forward.

While China has not been historically a major polluter, currently it is the second worst, after the United States. China is also one of the small group of nations that got together to hammer out the last minute non-binding Copenhagen Climate Accord in order to avert the total collapse of the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

However, it is now resolutely opposed to using that accord as the basis for global climate negotiations. One of its principal objections is that the Copenhagen Accord was put together by a very small non-representative grouping of countries, which is not reflective of the wide spectrum of international opinions.

Indeed, as I have previously pointed out the Climate Accord was only “noted” last December at the Copenhagen Summit. It was not legally accepted by the international community at the summit. The United Nations has, however, subsequently disclosed that about 120 countries have since signed on to it! China’s stated preference at the Bonn negotiations is for going back to the United Nations texts coming out of earlier negotiations, particularly those held in Bali, Indonesia in 2007 and afterwards.

Local disagreements

This heightened international contention is mirrored in Guyana, particularly with the boiling controversy among Amerindian stakeholders. I shall address this controversy directly, where appropriate, as my assessment of the LCDS proceeds. I hasten to note at this juncture that the global controversy between the United States and China must be resolved if the threat of global warming and climate change is to be successfully tackled by the international community. By the same token, I would argue, if the Amerindian communities are to avoid being shafted by the LCDS and its outcomes, they too must resolve their differences now and seek a unified way forward. I believe that like the global controversy, a successful way forward can only be forged on the basis of a clear and fully informed understanding of the central dynamic at work in the global climate problem. From this standpoint, I believe that both the local and global controversies respond to the same fundamental logic.

In future columns I hope to show that the central dynamic facing the local divided Amerindian communities (and for that matter all divided Guyanese communities on the climate problématique) is the transfer of the environmental services afforded by our “pristine” rainforests to the benefit of global enterprises determined to continue their unconscionable pursuit of the carbon-intensive exploitation of global resources and communities for the principal benefit of their own citizens.

Having made this point, I hasten to admit also that, heightened controversy among our Amerindian communities could turn out to be immensely beneficial. This would be particularly the case if it leads to a diligent search by these communities for more and better information. Greater knowledge will systematically empower Amerindian participants in the local debate. I believe that this holds true, despite the worrying evidence that to date one Amerindian group in the controversy is government-led, backed, steered and promoted.

Next week I shall begin to unravel some of the mysteries and mystifications, which lie behind the rapid explosive growth of global markets trading in carbon credits/offsets, to which it is being planned to align the LCDS.

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