Climate Smart Agriculture and carbon markets will be a disaster for Africa: Groups warn against Zuma’s agriculture prize at COP17

Gaia Foundation, African Biodiversity Network (ABN), Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) & EcoNexus

South African president Jacob Zuma has declared his intention to have a decision on Agriculture at
the UN COP17 climate negotiations in Durban; while the World Bank is promoting so-called “Climate
Smart Agriculture” and carbon offsets as the future of African agriculture and climate solutions.

But civil society groups in Durban are concerned that this vision for African agriculture will lead to
land grabs, farmer poverty and food insecurity, and only worsen global climate change.

Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation says “An agreement on Agriculture at COP17 would
supposedly be a consolation prize to Africa for failure on legally binding targets – but the consolation
prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of
fickle carbon markets.”

“This is a diversion, and a betrayal of the real need to reduce emissions. It will only worsen climate
change and food insecurity.” Adds Helena Paul of EcoNexus.

Simon Mwamba of the East African Small Scale Farmers’ Federation explains: “Climate Smart
Agriculture is being presented as sustainable agriculture – but the term is so broad that we fear it is
a front for promoting industrial, ‘green revolution’ agriculture too, which traps farmers into cycles of
debt and poverty.”

Anne Maina of the African Biodiversity Network adds “Climate Smart Agriculture comes packaged
with carbon offsets. Soil carbon markets could open the door to offsets for GM crops and large-scale
biochar land grabs, which would be a disaster for Africa. Africa is already suffering from a land grab
epidemic – the race to control soils for carbon trading could only make this worse.”

The current collapse of carbon markets will mean that offsets will fail to provide money for African
agriculture and farmers.

“There is no money for agriculture in Africa from carbon offsets. The financial structure of Climate
Smart Agriculture is built on evaporating carbon markets. Carbon markets are in collapse, and
projects will have unreliable and inadequate finance.” Adds Steve Suppan of IATP.

More than 100 African and international civil society groups have written to African
ministers imploring them to reject agriculture carbon markets. (View the letter at http://
nosoilcarbonmarkets.wordpress.com )

World Bank & developed country plans for Agriculture carbon markets a threat to Africa – Lessons from Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement

Wednesday 7th December 2011, COP17, Durban

The Gaia Foundation, The Green Belt Movement, EcoNexus

At the UN Climate Change negotiations in Durban this week, the World Bank and developed countries are claiming that agriculture carbon offsets will bring money for African agriculture. 

But civil society groups are worried that carbon offsets in agriculture will threaten African farmers and farming systems. 100+ civil society groups have signed a letter asking African negotiators to reject soil carbon markets.  They point to the collapse of the carbon markets and warn that carbon markets can open the door to land grabs and the establishment of industrial agricultural systems which threaten small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. 

“But the World Bank is fighting back,” says Helena Paul of EcoNexus. “It seems determined to massively expand carbon markets by linking agriculture with REDD, using what the Bank calls the ‘landscape approach’, under the guise of so-called ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’. This implies putting all land into the carbon markets. The Bank is also launching new investor initiatives in Durban today.”

Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation adds: “Developed country big guns from the US, Canada, Australia & New Zealand are loudly mouthing empty rhetoric about the need to address agriculture in the negotiations for Africa’s sake. But their claims that they are merely passionate about research into agroforestry, and Africa’s agricultural adaptation needs, are highly suspicious.  The World Bank’s aggressive push for a ‘mitigation programme of work on agriculture’ at the UN climate negotiations echoes the same rhetoric of saving Africa, but is a Trojan horse to bring in carbon offsets based on farmers’ soils.  Soil carbon offsets will promote a new spate of African land grabs, and put farmers under the control of fickle carbon markets.”

Doreen Stabinsky of Institute for Africulture and Trade Policy (IATP) points out that “The World Bank has paid for a series of meetings over the past year, designed to build support for soil carbon markets. They even paid the costs for a meeting of African Agriculture ministers in Johannesburg in September. Observers are left wondering why the Bank is investing so much money merely to get a statement from the COP to create a work programme on agriculture.  The Bank’s agenda is clearly an agenda of a carbon broker and trader — who makes his money on volume, not quality. More carbon for markets — including soil carbon — very simply means more money for the Bank and carbon project developers. This is about neither poverty alleviation, nor development.”

The organisation of the late Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, have launched a new report to share their experiences piloting a forest carbon project with the World Bank.  Professor Njoroge Karanja , Acting Director of GBM, warns that there are many lessons to be learned for other African projects and local communities considering carbon offsetting.  “Poor communities are greatly disadvantaged as the rules for implementation result in high costs for project development.   The lack of upfront funding, and the need to wait many years before payment for offsets, shuts out almost all the grassroots communities whose involvement is critical to the long-term sustainability of the projects.  If we continue with carbon offsetting – where polluters are able to offset their emissions through buying credits – Africa, Asia and South America will become hewers of wood and drawers of water. We need clear identifiable indicators of reduction of emissions from the major polluters before they can enter the carbon buying market in the south.”

 


Letter to African agriculture and environment ministers: No soil carbon markets

To: African Agriculture and Environment Ministers
Subject: Durban COP17, agriculture and soil carbon markets
22 November 2011

We, the undersigned civil society organisations from Africa and around the world, strongly object to a decision in Durban for an agriculture work programme focused on mitigation, which would lead to agricultural soils and agroecological practices being turned into commodities to be sold on carbon markets, or used as sinks to enable industrialised countries to continue to avoid reducing emissions.

African ministers have been urged by the World Bank to endorse this approach, coined as “climate smart” agriculture. Yet legitimizing soil carbon offsets through a mitigation-based agriculture work programme will further destabilize the climate, fail to tackle the real causes of agriculture emissions, present a major distraction from the need to generate public finance, and exacerbate social injustice by shifting the burden of mitigation onto developing countries – especially their small producers. Soil carbon offsets also have the potential to drive a new speculative land grab, further undermining food sovereignty and the right to food.

At the Durban COP17 negotiations, African and other developing country leaders must:

1) Reject soil carbon markets and an agriculture work programme that is framed within discussions on mitigation.

2) Demand that Annex 1 countries show political will and honour their legal obligations to new and additional finance to developing countries, for example with direct, annual contributions to the Adaptation Fund, instead of wasting public finances on propping up carbon markets that are doomed to fail.

3) Demand innovative sources of finance such as a Financial Transaction Tax (to draw a tiny percentage from international financial transactions) or use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs, issued by the International Monetary Fund). These could generate billions of dollars for developing countries to address adaptation challenges in Africa and elsewhere.

Soil Carbon Markets will fail our climate, small producers and developing country governments:

• The difficulty in measuring carbon sequestered in soil means that numbers must be largely based on assumptions instead of being scientifically verified. The complication and high cost of developing systems for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of soil carbon will chiefly benefit carbon consultants and companies in North America and Europe – and not the smallholder farmers and herders in Africa and elsewhere. Creating the complex infrastructure for soil carbon mechanisms is an expensive and dangerous diversion from directly financing the well-documented adaptation needs of small-scale agriculture.

• Corporations, governments and industrial agricultural production systems in Annex 1 countries are allowed to continue emitting greenhouse gases while supposedly meeting their mitigation targets through offsets. This reliance on offsets not only shifts the responsibility for addressing climate change onto developing country governments and small producers, but also distracts from the priority of addressing the serious adaptation challenges resulting from climate change.

• COP17 approval of such a work programme could pave the way for costly and unproven technological fixes such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other patented technologies and practices as solutions for “climate smart” agriculture. These technologies are not only prohibitively costly for developing countries, but also create new forms of corporate control over agricultural plant and animal genetic resources. Their safety is in doubt, and environmental, social and economic harm has already occurred from their use. They threaten to hinder rather than enhance agricultural adaptation to climate change.

Second, African ministers and other developing countries are falsely being promised agriculture and climate finance through carbon markets. Yet carbon markets are in crisis, and are clearly failing to generate finance or benefits for developing countries:

• Carbon markets are an over-hyped, unreliable, volatile and inequitable source of funding for Africa. In spite of the vast volumes of money currently associated with carbon markets, only a tiny fraction of this goes to projects on the ground. In 2009, out of a total global carbon market volume of $144 billion, just 0.2% of this was for project-based transactions . The remaining 99.8% was captured by large consultants’ fees and profits for commodity speculators, who trade carbon on international commodity markets like any other financialised product.

• Communities and governments’ public funds are expected to bear the huge implementation and pre-financing costs of projects. The implementation costs of land management methods are many times higher than the returns from the carbon market, while, to judge by Kenya’s pilot soil carbon market project, half of the projected returns are needed to cover transaction costs such as administration. The financial returns from offsets will barely trickle down to farmers, if at all. Such projects are therefore either financially unviable, or will continue to need public funding to survive.

• Carbon markets suffer from structural weaknesses that make them highly susceptible to fraud and manipulation, thereby making them unreliable for climate finance and development planning.

• The global price of carbon is already too low and volatile to deliver reliable finance to projects. Analysts predict that with commodity markets facing turmoil, and carbon markets facing a likely flood of new offset products, the price of carbon will only go down. This makes them a disastrous solution for food sovereignty, improved rural livelihoods and the agriculture adaptation needs of small producers.

• Given the technical challenges and scientific uncertainties about the actual sequestration of carbon in soil, this makes for a poor “tradable asset”. Given these uncertainties, soil carbon offset credits are ineligible for the European Emissions Trading Scheme – representing 97% of the global compliance market – until at least 2020.

Soil carbon and other agriculture offsets will not bring adequate, predictable, additional or reliable finance for adaptation or mitigation in Africa and elsewhere. Instead these quasi-markets will require massive public funds for pre-financing, and serve mostly to generate profits for commodity speculators in the North.

The focus on carbon markets also provides a distraction from urgent conversations on how to generate public finance to help developing countries to confront climate change. In 2009, developed countries committed to generate $100 billion per year for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries from public and private sources. To date, political energy has mostly focused attention on ways to generate and leverage private finance – usually by using public funds to prop up failing carbon markets. At the same time, developed countries have largely ignored the potential of numerous approaches that could be used to generate public finance (such as a tiny tax on financial transactions, or levies in the shipping and aviation sectors) which could go in part to support smallholder farmers and agricultural systems in developing countries.

The Kenya Project on Agricultural Carbon is not replicable without public funds:

The World Bank and SIDA-supported pilot project in Kenya is being used to convince African governments that this is a workable solution for agriculture investment. Yet even the project proponents admit that farmers will not benefit from carbon payments: they are only likely to earn between $5 and $1 per year. The World Bank has bankrolled the payment of carbon consultants to develop a “simplified” carbon methodology with the intent to duplicate it elsewhere, while SIDA funding is making up the difference. The project suffers from high transaction costs (up to half of the estimated revenue), low returns to farmers and uncertain environmental benefits due to the problems with soil carbon measurement. Without the World Bank’s support of guaranteed minimum carbon price and SIDA’s pre-financing, the huge required investment and low returns mean that this model is not replicable for other African countries.

We believe that agroecological practices are a key strategy for adaptation, mitigation and increased yields for African farmers. But these approaches cannot come packaged with, or be structured for, carbon offset credits. The critical issues of agriculture, food security and climate change have in fact been assessed at length in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Ministers should consider whether IAASTD policy options on climate change and food security, approved by more than 50 governments in Johannesburg in April 2008, are suitable for adoption in their countries. The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is also charged with addressing the linkages of climate change and food security in the coming year. The CFS process is inclusive and allows space for genuine civil society input.

The right to food must be at the heart of any discussions related to agriculture and climate change. Launching a mitigation-based framework on agriculture and climate change is therefore premature and short sighted.

Sincerely,

ActionAid International
The African Biodiversity Network (Kenya)
The Gaia Foundation (UK)
Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP)

Signatories

International Organizations
BiofuelWatch
ETC Group – International
Friends of the Earth International
Global Forest Coalition
Global Justice Ecology Project
International Food Security Network (IFSN), ActionAid International
Third World Network

Africa
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), on behalf of its 300 member organizations
350.org Durban, South Africa
Adnan Bashir Productions, South Africa
African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa
Bernadette Lubozhya, Landgrab Activist, Zambia
Biowatch South Africa, South Africa
Brainforest, Gabon
CVM/APA, Tanzania
Earthlife Africa eThekwini, South Africa
Earthlife Africa Joburg, South Africa
Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF),
ESAFF–Burundi
ESAFF–South Africa
ESAFF–Uganda
ECOPEACE, South Africa
ESPOIR POUR TOUS, Democratic Republic of Congo
Fathers 4 Justice, South Africa
FOE Mauritius, Mauritius
Forum pour la gouvernance et les droits de l’homme (FGDH), Democratic Republic of Congo
Greenpeace Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Guinee Ecologie, Republic of Guinea
Human Rights Network, South Africa
Improved Stoves Association of Kenya
Isis – Informal Settlement in Struggle, South Africa
KUTA-Security, South Africa
Le Réseau des communicateurs de l’environnement (RCEN), Democratic Republic of Congo
Les Amis de la Nature et des Jardins (ANJ), Democratic Republic of Congo
Lyambai Institute of Development, Zambia
Maendeleo Endelevu Action Program (MEAP), Kenya
Manenbers Social Ideology Collective, South Africa
Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG), South Africa
Rescope Programme, Malawi
Safe Food Coalition, South Africa
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, South Africa
Surplus People Project, South Africa
Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement, Tanzania
The Living Ghoen, South Africa
The Sustainable Development Institute / Friends of the Earth Liberia
Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa

Asia
Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development
Beyond Copenhagen Coalition (a collective of 42 organisations), India
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
HuMa (Association for Community and Ecology-based Law Reform), Indonesia
Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, Taiwan

Latin America
Centro Ecológico, Brazil
COECOCEIBA-Friends of the Earth Costa Rica, Costa Rica
Sobrevivencia, Paraguay

North America
Biomass Accountability Project, United States
Farmworker Association of Florida, United States
Indigenous Environmental Network, United States
Mangrove Action Project, United States
PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples), United States
Susila Dharma International Association, Canada
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Institute for Policy Studies, United States

Europe
FERN
Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN), Belgium
AEFJN Antenne Madrid, Spain
Antenne Italienne AEFJN, Italy
Netzwerk Afrika Deutschland (NAD), AEFJN, Germany
Africa-Europe Network, Netherlands
Agrar Koordination, Germany
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz (ARA), Germany
CDM Watch, Belgium
ClientEarth, United Kingdom
CONGOACTIF, France
Corporate Europe Observatory, Belgium
Development Alternatives, United Kingdom
Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), Germany
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
EcoNexus, United Kingdom
Garden Organic, United Kingdom
IBIS, Denmark
Les Amis de la Terre, France
Message from the Grassroots, Denmark
Naturland, Germany
NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark
ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria
Permanent Forum of European Civil Society, Belgium
Practical Action, United Kingdom
Pro Natura – Friends of the Earth Switzerland
Rettet den Regenwald e.V., Germany
Salva la Selva, Spain
Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), United Kingdom
SONIA (Society for New Initiatives and Activities) for a Just New World, Italy
SWISSAID, Switzerland
Terra Reversa, Belgium
The Development Fund, Norway
The Irish Missionary Union, Ireland
World Development Movement, United Kingdom
Youth Food Movement UK, United Kingdom

Oceania
Climate Justice Aotearoa, New Zealand
Sustainable Population, Australia

Say no to soil carbon markets @ COP17

Dear Friends,

Please find below a sign-on letter for African ministers and negotiators, challenging the threat of soil carbon markets at the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Durban.

The World Bank is pushing strongly for African countries to sign up to their model of “Climate Smart Agriculture”, and the dangerous idea that African agriculture and climate solutions should be funded by turning farms and soils into carbon offset projects.

Not only does this present a new land grab threat and yet another “false solution” for Africa and climate change, but carbon markets will fail to provide finance for Africa and agriculture. Instead they require massive public funds to set them up and keep them going. The only beneficiaries of soil carbon markets will be commodity speculators who trade in carbon offsets, and not farmers, food security, projects on the ground, or our climate.

We welcome your organisation’s sign-on, and we invite you to forward this letter to interested networks.

To sign on, please add your name, organisation and country to the form below.

Letter to African Ministers

To sign on to this letter, please add your name, organisation and country to:

To: African Agriculture and Environment Ministers
Subject: Durban COP17, agriculture and soil carbon markets

We, the undersigned civil society organisations from Africa and around the world, strongly object to a decision in Durban for an agriculture work programme focused on mitigation, which would lead to agricultural soils and agroecological practices being turned into commodities to be sold on carbon markets, or used as sinks to enable industrialised countries to continue to avoid reducing emissions.

African ministers have been urged by the World Bank to endorse this approach, coined as “climate smart” agriculture. Yet legitimizing soil carbon offsets through a mitigation-based agriculture work programme will further destabilize the climate, fail to tackle the real causes of agriculture emissions, present a major distraction from the need to generate public finance, and exacerbate social injustice by shifting the burden of mitigation onto developing countries – especially their small producers. Soil carbon offsets also have the potential to drive a new speculative land grab, further undermining food sovereignty and the right to food.

At the Durban COP17 negotiations, African and other developing country leaders must:

1) Reject soil carbon markets and an agriculture work programme that is framed within discussions on Mitigation.

2) Demand that Annex 1 countries show political will and honour their legal obligations to new and additional finance to developing countries, for example with direct, annual contributions to the Adaptation Fund, instead of wasting public finances on propping up carbon markets that are doomed to fail.

3) Demand innovative sources of finance such as a Financial Transaction Tax (to draw a tiny percentage from international financial transactions) or use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs, issued by the International Monetary Fund). These could generate billions of dollars for developing countries to address adaptation challenges in Africa and elsewhere.

Soil Carbon Markets will fail our climate, small producers and developing country governments:

  • The difficulty in measuring carbon sequestered in soil means that numbers must be largely based on assumptions instead of being scientifically verified. The complication and high cost of developing systems for the monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of soil carbon will chiefly benefit carbon consultants and companies in North America and Europe – and not the smallholder farmers and herders in Africa and elsewhere. Creating the complex infrastructure for soil carbon mechanisms is an expensive and dangerous diversion from directly financing the well-documented adaptation needs of small-scale agriculture.
  • Corporations, governments and industrial agricultural production systems in Annex 1 countries are allowed to continue emitting greenhouse gases while supposedly meeting their mitigation targets through offsets. This reliance on offsets not only shifts the responsibility for addressing climate change onto developing country governments and small producers, but also distracts from the priority of addressing the serious adaptation challenges resulting from climate change.
  • COP17 approval of such a work programme could pave the way for costly and unproven technological fixes such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other patented technologies and practices as solutions for “climate smart” agriculture. These technologies are not only prohibitively costly for developing countries, but also create new forms of corporate control over agricultural plant and animal genetic resources.[1] Their safety is in doubt, and environmental, social and economic harm has already occurred from their use. They threaten to hinder rather than enhance agricultural adaptation to climate change.

Second, African ministers and other developing countries are falsely being promised agriculture and climate finance through carbon markets. Yet carbon markets are in crisis, and are clearly failing to generate finance or benefits for developing countries:

  • Carbon markets are an over-hyped, unreliable, volatile and inequitable source of funding for Africa. In spite of the vast volumes of money currently associated with carbon markets, only a tiny fraction of this goes to projects on the ground. In 2009, out of a total global carbon market volume of $144 billion, just 0.2% of this was for project-based transactions[2] . The remaining 99.8% was captured by large consultants’ fees and profits for commodity speculators, who trade carbon on international commodity markets like any other financialised product.
  • Communities and governments’ public funds are expected to bear the huge implementation and pre-financing costs of projects. The implementation costs of land management methods are many times higher than the returns from the carbon market, while, to judge by Kenya’s pilot soil carbon market project, half of the projected returns are needed to cover transaction costs such as administration. The financial returns from offsets will barely trickle down to farmers, if at all. Such projects are therefore either financially unviable, or will continue to need public funding to survive.
  • Carbon markets suffer from structural weaknesses that make them highly susceptible to fraud and manipulation, thereby making them unreliable for climate finance and development planning.
  • The global price of carbon is already too low and volatile to deliver reliable finance to projects. Analysts predict that with commodity markets facing turmoil, and carbon markets facing a likely flood of new offset products, the price of carbon will only go down. This makes them a disastrous solution for food sovereignty, improved rural livelihoods and the agriculture adaptation needs of small producers.
  •  Given the technical challenges and scientific uncertainties about the actual sequestration of carbon in soil, this makes for a poor “tradable asset”. Given these uncertainties, soil carbon offset credits are ineligible for the European Emissions Trading Scheme – representing 97% of the global compliance market – until at least 2020.

Soil carbon and other agriculture offsets will not bring adequate, predictable, additional or reliable finance for adaptation or mitigation in Africa and elsewhere. Instead these quasi-markets will require massive public funds for pre-financing, and serve mostly to generate profits for commodity speculators in the North.

The focus on carbon markets also provides a distraction from urgent conversations on how to generate public finance to help developing countries to confront climate change. In 2009, developed countries committed to generate $100 billion per year for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries from public and private sources. To date, political energy has mostly focused attention on ways to generate and leverage private finance – usually by using public funds to prop up failing carbon markets. At the same time, developed countries have largely ignored the potential of numerous approaches that could be used to generate public finance (such as a tiny tax on financial transactions, or levies in the shipping and aviation sectors) which could go in part to support smallholder farmers and agricultural systems in developing countries.

The Kenya Project is not replicable without public funds:

The World Bank and SIDA-supported pilot project in Kenya is being used to convince African governments that this is a workable solution for agriculture investment. Yet even the project proponents admit that farmers will not benefit from carbon payments: they are only likely to earn between $5 and $1 per year. The World Bank has bankrolled the payment of carbon consultants to develop a “simplified” carbon methodology with the intent to duplicate it elsewhere, while SIDA funding is making up the difference. The project suffers from high transaction costs (up to half of the estimated revenue), low returns to farmers and uncertain environmental benefits due to the problems with soil carbon measurement. Without the World Bank’s support of guaranteed minimum carbon price and SIDA’s pre-financing, the huge required investment and low returns mean that this model is not replicable for other African countries.

We believe that agroecological practices are a key strategy for adaptation, mitigation and increased yields for African farmers. But these approaches cannot come packaged with, or be structured for, carbon offset credits. The critical issues of agriculture, food security and climate change have in fact been assessed at length in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Ministers should consider whether IAASTD policy options on climate change and food security, approved by more than 50 governments in Johannesburg in April 2008, are suitable for adoption in their countries. The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is also charged with addressing the linkages of climate change and food security in the coming year. The CFS process is inclusive and allows space for genuine civil society input.

The right to food must be at the heart of any discussions related to agriculture and climate change. Launching a mitigation-based framework on agriculture and climate change is therefore premature and short sighted.

Sincerely,

The African Biodiversity Network (Kenya)
The Gaia Foundation (UK)
Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP)
Practical Action (UK)