World Rainforest Movement

Tree plantations challenged at Climate Change Convention meeting

A new negotiation round on climate change under the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) ended in Bonn on August 6.

The protracted UNFCCC process which is crucial for the future of Humankind has become a very complex scenario full of technicisms and rather difficult to follow by non “experts”. The main danger of such a tangled structure is that it hides vested interests, powerful lobbies, bullying attitudes and unilateral decisions from the more powerful sectors and countries.

The process allegedly advances towards an agreement that should be reached by the end of the year in Cancun containing the guidelines that the world countries would adopt to deal with climate change. Two main tracks of this negotiation processes are:

–          the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties [terminology for Northern rich countries mainly responsible for climate change] under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) that deals with the future commitments for industrialized countries, and
–          the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) to enable the implementation of the Convention.

Whether we can remember such long names or not, it is important to know that in those areas of negotiation crucial things are being pushed, including the expansion of monoculture tree plantations under the guise of “forests” or under the so-called “Clean Development Mechanism”, namely projects in the South that generate windfalls for major polluters in the North. Another controversial issue is the inclusion of forests in the carbon market under the concept of “reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”, named REDD, which by no means would be a solution to climate change as long as it allows polluter countries to “offset” their carbon emissions thus evading the responsability of cutting them at source.

Those negotiations are also considering that under what is called REDD+ large scale tree plantations may well be a form of “enhancement of forest carbon stocks” and so could receive funding. And, on the top of that, tree plantations are being treated as “forests.”

Though the UNFCCC provides very narrow and restricted space for intervention of social groups, in the last Bonn round some voices managed to raise their challenging views regarding the trend of negotiations.

The UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency delivered a press release (1) where they upheld the need of a paradigm change which “requires a better understanding of the gender aspects of the issues. This includes an analysis of power relations within societies and institutions at all levels; local, regional and global. An example is the definition of forests that is currently being discussed in the negotiations. The on-going destruction of forests creates CO2 emissions, and mechanisms to avoid deforestation are currently under debate. The way that forests are defined and treated through such mechanisms will affect women and their communities. In a statement read at the closing session, women groups expressed their strong concerns that the current definition of forests includes large-scale monoculture tree plantations that have devastating impacts on women’s livelihoods and communities in general. Women and gender organizations reject incentive schemes that reduce ecosystems to their carbon value alone, ignoring the important socio-economic, cultural, spiritual and ecological values of forests, which are of essential importance to women and their communities.”

Also some members of Climate Justice Now!, and members of the women and gender constituency submitted a statement (2) objecting attempts that would allow countries to increase their emissions instead of reducing them. “We would like to reiterate our strong concern in this respect that the forest definition that is currently used for LULUCF [land use, land-use change and forestry activities] includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is, it includes real, biologically diverse forests, which are an essential source of livelihood for women and their families, but it also includes monoculture tree plantations, including large-scale monoculture tree plantations that have a devastating impact on women’s livelihoods and communities in general. These plantations destroy ecosystems and subsistence agriculture, cause rural unemployment and depopulation, deplete soils and water resources and violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights. That is why we insist that the definition of ‘forests’ is revised jointly with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) so as to exclude monoculture tree plantations. Moreover, it should be ensured that forest degradation is fully taken into account in any scheme to conserve forest.”

The strong claim that Tree Plantations Are Not Forests is getting into the UNFCCC corridors.

By Raquel Núñez, World Rainforest Movement, e-mail:

(1) “Climate negotiations more effective if guided by long-term vision – this must include social and gender justice,”  Women & Gender Constituency @ UNFCCC Press release, Bonn, August 6, 2010, ,

(2) Submitted to the Forest management accounting pre-sessional workshop, Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), Ad Hoc Working Group on Further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP),