World Rainforest Movement

V&M do Brazil’s carbon plantations proposal backfires

For the second time, the Clean Development Mechanism’s (CDM) Executive Board has rejected the reasons of Vallourec & Mannesmann do Brasil for requesting carbon credit money for industrial tree plantations.

At a meeting in Germany (23-25 February) the Executive Board of the Kyoto Protocol’s CDM decided to follow the recommendation of its Methodologies Panel to reject the latest draft of the V&M do Brazil “avoided fuel switch” project methodology. This technical document is the basis on which the amount of carbon credit, that a CDM project can sell, are based. In it, V&M do Brazil argues that only through additional income from the sale of carbon credits can it continue using charcoal from its eucalyptus plantations for pig iron smelting. Otherwise, it says, it will have to use coal – a more harmful fuel climatically.

Many doubts have been raised about the credibility of these claims. When it first rejected V&M’s reasoning in May 2003, the CDM Methodologies Panel pointed to “doubts” about the scenario presented by V&M; that without additional carbon money a switch to coal under current trends in the Brazilian pig iron industry would be unavoidable. In February 2004 the Panel expressed concerns about the “immaterial nature of the project activity and the moral hazard related to the fact that [it] consists of continuing current practice.”

The decision to reject the V&M proposal for the second time bodes ill for the equally controversial Plantar project, which also includes an “avoided fuel switch” component. The Plantar project, which will expand eucalyptus plantations on 23,000ha of “cerrado” land (savanna), is promoted by the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund as the fund’s only carbon sink project but has been criticised by numerous Brazilian civil society organisations for its negative environmental and social impact. NGOs criticised the proposed expansion of tree plantations, saying that carbon credits generated by tree planting are climatically worthless, among others because emission reductions from tree planting cannot be sufficiently verified.

The CDM Board decision adds yet more weight to the arguments of those who have long maintained that tree plantations’ ability to absorb any specifiable amount of carbon from the atmosphere is unverifiable and that tree planting to generate carbon credits is not a solution to averting dangerous climate change. Instead, it diverts attention away from creating efficient energy measures and economies based on renewable energy use.

By Jutta Kill, SinksWatch, e-mail: , web site: