. Latest plans by the EU and many other countries to include establishment of monoculture tree plantations in their climate action plans to implement the Paris Agreement will lead to dramatic impacts on biodiversity, rural communities and the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement itself, warns the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) (1) on the occasion of the International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations (2). In recent proposals, the European Commission has allowed EU countries to use carbon credits generated by afforestation projects and agriculture to offset their energy- and transport related emissions (3). This according to GFC, will create massive loopholes in the climate regime, and will also trigger the replacement of natural forests and other ecosystems by large-scale monocultures of, often alien and invasive, trees.
"Here in Ireland, more than 300,000 hectares of monoculture plantations of mainly non-native conifers were established using EU public funds since 1990," said Andrew St Ledger of the Woodland League, GFC' s member group in Ireland. Referring to a recent EU study, St Ledger pointed out that such conifer plantations, promoted via reforestation policies, have in fact increased global warming (4). "Now this EU agreement will allow more of these Green Deserts to offset emissions from the Irish livestock, transport and energy sectors. Ireland is spending 482 million euros on the 2014-2020 forest programme, with tax free incentives designed to benefit corporates, who are buying up land to plant for carbon funds", noted St Ledger.
Pointing to the recent Apple tax scandal (5) in Ireland St Ledger said, "the Irish political establishment has colluded with corporates like Apple over many years to rob the Irish public. We cannot allow these corporations to trample over public good once again by making profits from green deserts in the name of climate solutions, when in fact these are part of the problem."
Several climate finance mechanisms, such as the World Bank's Forest Investment Program, have been funding the establishment of monoculture tree plantations in developing countries, which are still being defined as "reforestation" and "afforestation" projects by climate policy makers. "The Paris Agreement inappropriately allows countries to offset their emissions with plantations. Tree plantations are by definition temporary, so they will release the emissions they stored again. This puts a time bomb under our global climate system" said Simone Lovera, executive director of GFC.
Tree monocultures also threaten rural communities as they provide very few stable jobs compared to the amount of land needed, which undermines rural economies. "Here in Colombia, communities are being offered money and seedlings to plant trees as carbon offsets, but lands covered by tree monocultures do not offer anything in terms of livelihood" says Diego Cardona of Censat Agua Viva, GFC's chairperson. "Monocultures should be explicitly excluded from climate schemes, and support should instead be given to community conservation and forest restoration initiatives," stressed Cardona who has been working on community led conservation with the GFC in Colombia (6).
(1) Global Forest Coalition is a worldwide coalition of almost 80 NGOs and Indigenous peoples' organizations from 53 different countries striving for rights-based, socially just forest conservation policies. Link: http://globalforestcoalition.org/media
(2) The 21st of September is marked by activists all over the globe to organize activities to alert decision-makers and the wider public on the negative impacts of monoculture tree plantations.