For immediate release, 27 November 2012
Turning forests into fuel for the new 'bio-economy?'
What Really Happens When Forests are Commodified - Voices From Around The World
A Video Repository 
Doha, Qatar- As Governments gathering for the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18) continue discussions on the need to address the drivers of forest loss, the Global Forest Coalition , today launches a video repository that tells a powerful story about the commodification of forests as a key driver of climate change. This can only worsen as new industrial 'bio-economy' strategies come into play.
The repository brings together key videos produced and directed by a wide range of groups and communities, clearly demonstrating that Indigenous Peoples and local communities in countries right across the world are encountering and challenging the same problems with the rapidly expanding commodification of forest resources. Forests, their biodiversity, and their inhabitants are under attack as never before. In addition to existing problems, such as illegal logging and the clearing of forests to grow food crops for export, a variety of new policies threaten to escalate the situation dramatically. These include the production of biofuels, and the new industrial 'bio-economy' approach, which aims to replace fossil fuels with biomass (including from trees), both as an energy source and to provide the raw materials for a new phase of industrialisation .
In addition, governments' market-oriented 'green economy' approach includes a key policy that impacts on forests. REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is still being negotiated in the UNFCCC, but already unfolding on the ground, with sadly predictable impacts. It is explicitly premised on increasing the value of standing trees, leading to more and more land being grabbed from people living in or dependent upon forests. Furthermore, REDD policies mistakenly equate diverse and ancient forests with plantations. This means that REDD permits funds destined for forest conservation to be used for the establishment of quick-growing and otherwise barren monoculture plantations[SL1] . This would place severe constraints on our collective ability to deal with climate change since plantations only contain a fraction of the carbon locked up in old growth forests.
Simone Lovera, executive director of the Global Forest Coalition, points out:
"Bio-economies spell big trouble for the world's forests. How can governments be planning a new industrial phase based on biomass, even though the UNFCCC is supposed to be protecting the world's forests for the sake of the climate? There is a clue though: timber and plantations companies stand to make a profit from both agendas."
The video repository, 'Turning forests into fuel for the new 'bio-economy?' , brings together a range of real cases where projects are impacting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. These include Brazilian company ETH promoting large-scale sugar cane plantations for ethanol production in Mato Grosso do Sul, causing the displacement of 40,000 Guaraní Kaiowá; the Lutheran Church of Sweden and Norway funding gum tree plantations impacting local biodiversity and food security in Mozambique; the descent of 'carbon cowboys' on unsuspecting communities; and the negative impacts of carbon offset schemes in countries such as Uganda and Mexico.
Note: During UNFCCC's-COP18 the Global Forest Coalition, in cooperation with ICCA Consortium, is having a side event on November 28th, 2012 at 11:30 am in Room 8 on 'The Impacts of the Bioeconomy on Climate Change, and the Rights and Conservation Initiatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities'. GFC will also have an exhibition space during the first week of the COP, please come and visit us!
Simone Lovera, Executive Director GFC: (In Doha) +31-6-15345379
Isis Alvarez, Global Forest Coalition-Colombia: +57-3156484656
 Video research: Isis Alvarez; Edition: Ronnie Hall & Simone Lovera. Global Forest Coalition, 2012. http://globalforestcoalition.org/media/gfc-videos/web-based-video-repository
 Global Forest Coalition is a coalition of 54 NGOs and Indigenous Peoples' organizations from 39 countries striving for rights-based, socially just forest policies. See http://www.globalforestcoalition.org
 See also http://www.criticalcollective.org/publications/green-economy-3 for a collection of reports by GFC and others on the impacts of the Bio-economy
 Forests in a Changing Climate, Friends of the Earth International, December 2008, Issue 115.
Industrial Soy and Sugar Cane Fuel Native Land Conflicts in Brazil
|Written by Fabiana Frayssinet|
|Monday, 19 November 2012 20:05|
Source: Inter Press Service
Brazil's Guaraní-Kaiowá people are no longer willing to wait quietly for the government to demarcate their land.
The threat of mass suicide by native Guaraní-Kaiowá people in southwest Brazil brought to light a new formula for worsening conflicts over indigenous territory: the expansion of the cultivation of soy beans and sugar cane, two top export crops.
The situation is the focus of a study, "Em terras alheias a produção de soja e cana em áreas Guarani no Mato Grosso do Sul" (On other people's land: Production of soy beans and sugar cane in Guaraní areas of Mato Grosso do Sul), by Repórter Brasil, a local NGO.
Drawing on official data and research in villages of the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the study mapped the cultivation of sugar cane and soy beans in six indigenous areas.
"When international commodity prices go up, it becomes more profitable to grow soy beans or sugar cane, and land values rise," investigative journalist Verena Glass, one of the authors of the study, told IPS. "With greater demand for land, large landowners arm themselves against the indigenous people, and conflicts surge, as happened last year."
In Mato Grosso do Sul, which is home to some 44,000 Guaraní-Kaiowá, conflicts broke out this year on cattle ranches. But the same logic is at work: there is "a dispute between commodities and lands claimed by indigenous people," she said.
When the report was presented on Oct. 24, the conflicts worsened. The study was carried out in July, when occupations by the Kaiowá to recover their territories led to confrontations and violent reactions by large landowners, including armed attacks on native encampments.
But the conflict crossed state borders when some 30 families of the Pyelito Kue Kaiowá community announced their "collective death" if they were driven off their land, which is currently in the process of being demarcated by government authorities as their communally owned territory.
Tired of waiting in encampments along the side of the roads, the native people occupied a small part of their ancestral lands that had been taken over by large landowners. But in October a court ordered their eviction.
When the news, interpreted as a threat to commit mass suicide, circled the globe by means of social networks, the government had the judicial decision revoked, so that the Pyelito Kue people could stay where they were until the demarcation process was complete.
The community was partly satisfied with the decision, Egon Heck, of the Catholic Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI), told IPS.
They were happy, he said, because they would not be expelled from their land, but unhappy because they still have to live in overcrowded conditions on just one hectare, without being able to set foot outside it, for who knows how long.
"It's a situation of aggressive confinement that has been going on for years and was aggravated by the court verdict," said Heck, whose organisation is linked to the Brazilian Catholic Bishop's Conference.
He asked how nearly 200 indigenous people, "linked to their territory and natural resources as their way of life, are supposed to manage to survive on one hectare.
"Can it be that the interpretation of the constitution, which guarantees collective land to these people, is being distorted by the interests of private property?" he asked.
Maurício Santoro, a human rights adviser to Amnesty International in Brazil, told IPS that Mato Grosso do Sul has areas densely populated with indigenous people, but that these areas are scattered between soy bean plantations and cattle ranches.
"These lands have not yet been demarcated by the federal government, and the legal vacuum has fuelled conflict," he said.
Like Pyelito Kue, other communities were forced off their lands and are now living in camps by the side of the road, without medical services and constantly threatened by gunmen hired by local landowners.
"The waiting is killing people anyway," Tonico, a Kaiowá Indian, told IPS in September. "No one is making decisions. We are going to occupy all our lands, even knowing that there is no security and that we are going to die. The people have decided."
According to CIMI, suicide has long been present among the Kaiowá and other Guaraní groups, particularly among young people. Between 2003 and 2010 there were 555 suicides.
Since 1991, only eight reserves have been formally approved for the Kaiowá-Guaraní people, who are the second-largest native group in Brazil but live in small territories.
The expansion of agribusiness, which has been heavily promoted by the state government, has exacerbated the situation.
The type of agriculture practiced, based on intensive use of pesticides, the destruction of soil microorganisms and the devastation of rivers and forests, has been a "major aggravating factor" in the historic process of expulsion and extinction of the Guaraní-Kaiowá people, said Heck.
Agricultural mechanization and the use of toxic chemicals have also reduced the employment of indigenous people as workers on large estates or in ethanol plants, where sugar cane is used to produce biofuels.
"Soon they won't even have this work, which may be in semi-slavery conditions but is practically the only income available, besides government assistance," since they don't have access to their own land, Heck said.
Repórter Brasil launched a campaign urging transnational corporations to boycott the produce of estates illegally located on indigenous lands.
"The idea is for big buyers to avoid purchasing products from indigenous lands, as a kind of punishment. That way, the producers are economically weakened, and the value of indigenous land is reduced," Glass said.
Two ethanol plants in the state, São Fernando and Raízen, have promised not to buy sugar cane from indigenous areas.
But others, like Monte Verde, which belongs to the Bunge company, buy grains from five estates on indigenous lands that are still being demarcated, according to Glass. The company argues that it is not infringing any rules as long as the estate owners are not legally compelled to leave the areas.
The government of President Dilma Rousseff has promised to accelerate the process of demarcation of native reserves. Meanwhile, rural producers are demanding economic compensation for leaving indigenous lands, and complain that one historic error is being paid for "with another historic error," namely, penalizing a productive sector.
Friends of the Earth Scotland and Biofuelwatch joint News Release
Environmental campaigners today (23 November 2012) called on the Scottish Government to pay attention to warnings against subsidies for inefficient and unsustainable large-scale biomass.
The warnings come in a report on renewable energy published by a Scottish Parliament Committee today , which urges the Government not to subsidise proposed biomass power stations without "substantive improvements to efficiency".
Emilia Hanna, Biofuelwatch, said: "The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee report today sends a strong message to the Scottish Government that their current plans for subsidising large, inefficient biomass power stations pose a risk to climate and human rights and must be revised. Otherwise, we will see more biodiverse forests worldwide being destroyed and likely more communities being evicted to make way for tree plantations in countries such as Brazil, in order to feed Scottish power stations."
Andrew Llanwarne, Board member of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Within the next few months, Forth Energy's biomass applications in Rosyth, Grangemouth and Dundee will be decided by the Scottish Government. If they are given the green light then we will see millions of tonnes of wood from the Americas being burnt, at a devastating cost to forests and climate and possibly human rights.
"Pouring hundreds of millions of pounds taken from all our electricity bills into this would defeat the purpose of the Scottish renewable energy target, and be contrary to the Government's own policy for biomass. We support the Committee's view that biomass has its place, and can be sustainable, if it is used efficiently in small local schemes to produce heat. This is the Government's stated policy and they should stick to it."
Under Government proposals, hundreds of millions of pounds of subsidies could be paid to inefficient biomass power stations,contrary to its own stated policy. The Committee's report also warns that the Government's proposed sustainability standards for biomass ignore human rights as well as key climate impacts. They would burn wood from plantations overseas, from which communities have been evicted, effectively exporting the Clearances to other countries. And far from reducing our carbon emissions, burning trees would release more carbon than coal. Yet they would be eligible for subsidies.
Notes to editors:
1. The "Report on the achievability of the Scottish Government's renewable energy targets" was published by the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee earlier today and is available at www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EconomyEnergyandTourismCommittee/Reports/e...
2. Paragraph 273 of the report states: "The Committee shares the concerns of the Scottish Government and the wood panel industry with regard to the potential distortion of the wood market caused by increasing biomass generation. We are further concerned that sustainability criteria and certification schemes for feedstock fail to take account of issues of human rights, indirect land use change and emissions debt. Accordingly, the Committee supports the Scottish Government's proposals not to incentivise new, large scale plants dedicated solely to the generation electricity. The Committee would wish to see substantive improvements in the efficiency of proposed biomass plants before they could attract subsidy."
3. For background information about the Scottish Government proposal, please see Parliamentary Briefing: How Scottish Government proposals will support destructive, low-efficiency, large-scale biomass by Friends of the Earth Scotland, Biofuelwatch, Grangemouth Community Council and No Leith Biomass.www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2012/scottish-parliament-briefing-rocs