REDD+ funds for conservation?

Before getting all excited about using REDD funds for conservation, read this recent letter in Conservation Letters,

Risky business: an uncertain future for biodiversity conservation finance through REDD+
Jacob Phelps, Edward L. Webb, & Lian P. Koh

Abstract
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and through the conservation, sustainable management, and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) offers unprecedented potential funding for forest conservation and associated biodiversity. However, as a growing number of biodiversity conservation projects link with carbon emissions mitigation efforts, they might also be exposed to significant financial risks. REDD+ projects currently face uncertainty over future demand for carbon credits, the potential for inconsistent donor support in the long-term, carbon market volatility, investor preference for low-cost emissions mitigation over cobenefits, and the possibility of a shortlived REDD+ mechanism. The private sector is aware of the associated financial risks, which remain largely unaddressed within the conservation literature. Biodiversity conservationists need to identify a balance between maximizing near-term REDD+ opportunities and insulating themselves from long-term financial risks. We describe some of the prospective financial risks for biodiversity conservation efforts linked with REDD+, and propose initial strategies for financial resilience.

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Problems using REDD for wildlife conservation

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) was set up to reduce greenhouse gases, with biodiversity conservation as a “co-benefit”.

It is therefore encouraging to see this project in Kenya, the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project,

WWC’s first project at Rukinga, Kenya, has been operating since 2005 protecting local wildlife and forests. The aim of this project is to bring the benefits of direct carbon financing to surrounding communities, while simultaneously addressing alternative livelihoods. Human-wildlife conflict has been a problem in the past, as local agents are reliant on flora and fauna as a means for subsistence. The Rukinga project directly addresses such sources of conflict in a holistic, sustainable approach. An additional goal is to secure a contiguous wildlife migration corridor between Tsavo East and West National Parks.

The project is being carried out by Wildlife Works Carbon LLC.

Our first REDD project in Rukinga, Kenya builds on a successful decade long track record, of bringing much needed jobs to a community that was being forced to destroy their magnificent wilderness in order to survive. In the last ten years we have turned back time, and restored a huge piece of land to a healthy vibrant ecosystem, full of elephants, lions, and 50 other species of large mammal. At the same time, the community has received 18 new classrooms for their children, and the employees and their families have received full health care benefits in a community with incredibly high HIV incidence. Wildlife Works also founded an organic greenhouse to promote healthier farming practices, to provide local farmers with cash generating citrus trees and free agroforestry trees to use for building and fuel wood. Wildlife Works Carbon will provide the financial additionality to ensure long term sustainability of Wildlife Works efforts in Kenya and beyond.

What seems to be missing here is a clear description of the distribution mechanism to a local contracting party (village council, group ranch, or other organization) the revenue stream the local party can expect over the life of the project. And how was free, prior and informed consent obtained?

Infant industry protection

Ha-Joon Chang writes that almost all rich countries got wealthy by protecting infant industries and limiting foreign investment.

Once upon a time, the leading car-maker of a developing country exported its first passenger cars to the US. Until then, the company had only made poor copies of cars made by richer countries. The car was just a cheap subcompact (“four wheels and an ashtray”) but it was a big moment for the country and its exporters felt proud.

Unfortunately, the car failed. Most people thought it looked lousy, and were reluctant to spend serious money on a family car that came from a place where only second-rate products were made. The car had to be withdrawn from the US. This disaster led to a major debate among the country’s citizens. Many argued that the company should have stuck to its original business of making simple textile machinery. After all, the country’s biggest export item was silk. If the company could not make decent cars after 25 years of trying, there was no future for it. The government had given the car-maker every chance. It had ensured high profits for it through high tariffs and tough controls on foreign investment. Less than ten years earlier, it had even given public money to save the company from bankruptcy. So, the critics argued, foreign cars should now be let in freely and foreign car-makers, who had been kicked out 20 years before, allowed back again. Others disagreed. They argued that no country had ever got anywhere without developing “serious” industries like car production. They just needed more time.

The year was 1958 and the country was Japan…

Read the article here.

Ha-Joon Chang is the author of Kicking Away the Ladder: Policies and Institutions for Economic Development in Historical Perspective and the forthcoming Bad Samaritans—Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World. 

The UN World Food Program in Somalia

The World Food Program dumps food on the market in Somalia, with predictable results. From The Independent,

“Food aid sent to Somalia to combat one of the world’s largest malnutrition crises has been criticised by Somali elders for causing violence – and for being delivered at the start of the harvest season.

More than 33,500 tonnes of food aid has been delivered to Somalia by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) since the start of the year. But in Marere district in the lower Juba valley, farmers and elders said the food distribution had brought chaos and driven down the price of maize by 60 per cent.

“WFP shouldn’t have brought it now,” said Mohammed Abdullahi Gure, chairman of the elders committee in Marere, who said distribution of the food had caused serious security problems.[…]

It is not the first time that Marere’s elders have criticised the WFP. After a chaotic food distribution last year, which also took place during the harvest season, the elders wrote to WFP asking the UN organisation not to deliver food again.[…]

Musa Yusuf Ahmed, 44, was a policeman before the Somali government collapsed in 1991. Now, he tries to make a living from farming, growing maize, beans and watermelons. He normally sells a 50kg bag of maize for 100,000 Somali shillings (about £3.10), but Mr Ahmed said it had dropped to 40,000 (£1.25). “For we farmers it is a big problem,” he said. “The food will benefit the people with no money but it will hurt the farmers.”

Some recipients of the food aid have also claimed that the quality is so bad they have had to feed it to their animals…”

Farm subsidies

This letter made me laugh…

Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR

16 May 2007

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the “not rearing pigs” business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven’t reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is – until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100?

I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don’t rear?

I am also considering the “not milking cows” business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits.

I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Johnson-Hill

[via Guido Fawkes]

The Myth of Inevitable Progress

A review of Indur M. Goklany’s The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet by James Surowiecki.

The core message of Goklany’s book is that economic growth and technological change are the keys to improving people’s lives. But the success of China and India suggests that no one really knows how to bring these achievements about, which makes Goklany’s wide-eyed optimism about the future seem misplaced.[…]

The fact that every country’s experience is different does not mean that there are not deeper truths to be uncovered by looking at the experience of the world as a whole. But the truths thus far uncovered are relatively few in number and often limited in impact. So, yes, free trade is a good thing, subsidies to agriculture and official corruption are bad things, and so on. And policymakers should be aggressive in implementing those practices and policies that there is a good reason to think will work. But they also need to be cautious about taking theoretical pronouncements for reality, and they should be pragmatists rather than evangelists. After decades of misplaced certainty, it may be time to recognize the limits of our own knowledge — at least if we want the state of the world to continue improving.