The new offensive of "green capitalism"

The new offensive of

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By SENA-Fobomade

Capitalism in multiple crisis creates new commodities and develops new instruments to reproduce itself, such as the so-called “carbon market”, where it buys and sells territories, natural resources and “rights” or “licenses” to pollute and overexploit nature. These false solutions allowed rich nations to continue to breach their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; at the same time, they degraded vast expanses of land and water sources, and encouraged the privatization of indigenous and peasant territories throughout the world.

An alliance of developed countries, transnationals, international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and even United Nations agencies promote the “carbon market” as main tool in the fight against the ecological crisis and climate change. This is the biggest offensive of "green capitalism".

Capitalism in multiple crisis creates new commodities and develops new instruments to reproduce itself, such as the so-called “carbon market”, where it buys and sells territories, natural resources and “rights” or “licenses” to pollute and overexploit nature.

The planetary climate is at the mercy of capital, hostage to the carbon market. Although it seems “a strange dynamic”, emissions trading can finance several projects, “make sustainable development cost efficient, and achieve real progress in reducing greenhouse gases”, justifies the executive vice president of Development and Marketing from 3Degrees Steve McDougal.

However, all the environmental proposals of green capitalism, including the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), have been ineffective in practice. These false solutions allowed rich nations to continue to breach their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; at the same time, they degraded vast expanses of land and water sources, and encouraged the privatization of indigenous and peasant territories throughout the world.

How does the carbon market work?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assigns “common but differentiated responsibilities” in the fight against climate change to rich and poor countries. The Kyoto Protocol –recognized in 1997 and in force since February 16, 2005– above all commits developed countries to put a cap on their GHG emissions.

The Protocol enables three market mechanisms to help industrialized nations achieve GHG emission reduction targets of 5.2% between 2008 and 2012: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation.

The largest GHG emitters can achieve their emission reduction goals either by optimizing their production processes, using cleaner fuels, or by purchasing emission allowances.

The main polluting countries on the planet sell, buy, auction or exchange "emission rights or" licenses "to continue polluting the atmosphere.

In the joint application mechanism, developed countries exchange “emission reduction units” with each other; while in the emissions market they trade with “units of the assigned amount”. The “swap” of issues is the dominant mechanism.

If the swapped allocations are too expensive or limited, GHG emitters can also acquire cheaper emission rights by financing CDM projects in other parts of the world that help reduce or “capture” CO2 not emitted into the atmosphere.

When financing CDM projects, first world countries and companies acquire “emission reduction certificates” (CER), which can also be exchanged or sold, and with which they certify the enforced fulfillment of emission reduction targets.

CDM offset projects can be landfills that capture methane; forest monocultures; renewable energy facilities such as wind and hydroelectric farms, and biofuel factories, among others.

Forests did not enter the COP negotiations agenda as market mechanisms until 2003; An activation has been observed since 2005 and from the COP in Bali in 2007 we see a meteoric escalation of the idea that tropical forests are fundamental to advance in any climate agreement, describes the specialist of Friends of the Earth Brazil Camila Moreno.

The Copenhagen Accord formally recognizes REDD as mechanisms for “sustainable forest management, forest conservation, reforestation and the increase of forest carbon stocks”, including monocultures of transgenic trees. [one]

REDD grants at least three types of compensation: for the reforestation of previously logged areas; by afforestation or tree planting in areas where there were no forests for at least the last 50 years; and by avoided deforestation, that is, by efforts to stop tree felling, explains Conservation International's chief director of Forest Carbon Markets Toby Janson-Smith.

All these market projects must meet three requirements to be considered viable:

1. They must be “additional”, that is, they would not occur in the absence of a compensation incentive

2. Capable of reducing emissions in a measurable and permanent way, and

3. Be real and verified by independent inspectors.

Evolution of the carbon market

The number of new carbon market project offerings rose dramatically from less than 10 a month in early 2005 to nearly 100 a month in 2007, estimates the World's Fauna Fund. [2]

Until 2008, the UNFCCC registered more than 1,600 CDM projects in different countries. According to the Andean Community (CAN), at least 262 CDM projects are being executed in the region, of which 46 are forestry projects.

In Bolivia there are at least seven forestry projects, half in valleys in Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Colombia has 12 forestry projects. In Ecuador there are 16 projects, of which at least six are in provinces such as Loja, Azuay, El Oro, Zamora, among others. In Peru there are 11 projects, four of them in the Andean area, mainly in the Junín region.

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an intergovernmental body of tropical forest timber producer and consumer countries, launched the Thematic Program on REDD and Environmental Services in Tropical Forests (REDDES), with funding from Norway.

In 1990, the Directory of Dutch Electricity Generating Companies created the FACE Foundation (Forest Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emissions) with the objective of planting 150 thousand hectares of forest in the world, half in the Andes of Ecuador. The goal is to offset the emissions from a new coal-fired power plant in the Netherlands. [3]

On the other hand, the Anglo-Dutch Shell, the Russian Gazprom and the Clinton Foundation are financing the REDD-like project in the Kalimantan province in Indonesia.

Cargill donated millions of dollars to support the Amazon Forest Carbon Partnership (AFCP). Its local counterparts are the Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity (FUNBIO), the Foundation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Environment of Bolivia, the Fund for Environmental Action and Children of Colombia, the Promotion Fund for Protected Natural Areas of Peru. and the National Environmental Fund of Ecuador.

In Brazil, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental (SPVS) are promoting the Guaraqueçaba project in the Morro da Mina, Rio Cachoeira and Serra do Itaqui reserves, with financing from General Motors, ChevronTexaco and American Electric Power.

Carbon credit trading amounted to $ 126 billion in 2008, and is expected to reach $ 3.1 trillion in 2020. The global unregulated market for voluntary offsets tripled between 2006 and 2007, reaching $ 331 million dollars, estimates the organization Ecosystems Marketplace. [4]

The carbon market has become a business for private investors and has favored financial speculation. Firms acquired 80 percent of the compensation in the “informal” market, while in the regulated market, banks and speculators concentrate the majority of transactions. [5]

Big scams

There is growing evidence that many carbon market projects do not meet minimum requirements and do not contribute at all to further reduction of GHG emissions.

The offsets contemplated by the Kyoto Protocol had "uncertain" effects on greenhouse gas emissions, with "limited" contributions to the development of sustainable technology, concluded a report by the North American Government Accountability Office (GAO). [6]

The offset market carries a high risk of fraud and deception, warned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), while the deputy director of security for the Office of Consumer Protection Jim Kohm reported that some companies sell multiple offsets to a single project.

"Compensations are not like products that can be touched or felt (...) I could sell you compensation for planting a tree, but how do you know that I have not already sold that same compensation to someone else?" Kohm.

Federal offices are supposed to provide some technical assistance and consumer protection, but "no single regulatory body (in the United States) has oversight responsibilities (in the informal compensation market)," the GAO admitted in August 2008.

According to the GAO, "some offset credits were granted for projects that would have occurred even in the absence of the CDM, despite a rigorous review process."

On October 20, 2008, Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Ball reported that landfill operators across the country were selling offsets for methane capture projects that had been in operation for several years.

Energy projects in China - hydroelectric power plants, wind power and natural gas - for which the vast majority of CER credits are awarded, are "mostly bogus," said David Victor, director of the energy and Sustainable Development from Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. [7]

Human rights violations

The ongoing CDM projects are causing environmental and social ills that contradict the objectives of the “emission reduction” program. There is growing evidence that many projects do more harm than good.

Biofuels, hydroelectric power, forest conservation, the carbon market and other measures to stop global warming are as harmful to indigenous peoples as climate change itself, concludes the report The Most Inconvenient Truth of All: Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples, produced by Survival International. [8]

“The indigenous peoples of the planet, being those who have contributed the least to climate change and those most affected by it, see their rights violated and their lands devastated in the name of attempts to stop it. Under the protection of international pressure to prevent climate change, governments and companies are ordering a massive appropriation of land, ”the report denounces.

It has been proven in practice that CDM bonds or "credits" are used by transnational corporations to grab land and natural resources in Latin America, to the detriment of indigenous peoples and small farmers. “People with the lowest pollution standards on Earth are being displaced by the companies that pollute the most,” says Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIR).

Hydroelectric, wind power plants, municipal solid waste management, transportation systems, biofuels, reforestation and afforestation displace populations and dispute agricultural land that was used for growing staple foods.

Furthermore, the "payment" to communities for conserving their forests is controversial. Individual economic incentives begin to affect the organization and collective rights. The income of the money monetizes the protection of their livelihoods.

Indigenous peoples are mortgaging their territories for up to 99 years.

REDD has become a form of “CO2lonialism of forests” and “could cause forest closure”, “resource conflicts”, “marginalize the landless”, “erode collective land tenure”, "Deprive communities of their legitimate aspirations to develop their lands" and "erode the cultural values ​​of non-profit conservation," warns the Indigenous Network of North America. [9]

Exemplary cases

Large gas and water projects are the most damaging, rarely saving additional emissions, and in fact offering perverse incentives to expand industries of environmental degradation, says Eva Filzmoser of the CDM Observatory.

The wood and pulp industries expropriate indigenous farms and grazing lands for huge mono-specific plantations, which threaten the area's biodiversity, and which can seriously deplete water resources. Another threat is the introduction of exotic species (pines and others) on a large scale.

Various environmental groups claim that forest plantations in no way replace lost natural rainforest in terms of wildlife, water production, or, even more important, as a carbon dioxide reservoir. In reality, the biofuel industry linked to oil palms is one of the main deforesters.

The displacement of Brazilians living in rural areas accounts for the consequences of the “Cap and Trade” system that only favors some of the world's biggest polluters such as General Motors and Chevron.

In Africa, a UNEP-funded REDD-type project in Kenya's Mau Forest has caused evictions and threatened the cultural survival of the Ogiek People. [10]

The SocioBosque program in Ecuador limits access and traditional use (agriculture, hunting or fishing) to forest user peoples, who are exposed to harsh penal, civil and administrative sanctions. In this way, the fragmentation of community lands and territories is encouraged, causing very serious internal conflicts.

The environmental organization Greenpeace denounced that the North American American Electric Power and PacifiCorp and the British British Petroleum fail to comply with a conservation project for the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, located in the department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and declared a World Heritage Site in 1991.

The Climate Action project implemented in this park in 1997 by the three companies, an NGO and the Bolivian government had to demonstrate that the main carbon emitters could earn emission credits by protecting forests abroad. However, it is "little more than a dangerous distraction from real efforts to stop climate change," warns the Greenpeace report.

“While logging has stopped in the confines of the park, it has spread to the areas around it. And this is something that people interested in the project do not want us to know, ”said Greenpeace research director Kert Davies.

The project included the provision of social benefits to the communities in the area, something that has never materialized. "The Noel Kempff project has not delivered a single benefit and, therefore, the balance is very negative," according to Greenpeace.

“From an ecological point of view, the establishment of large-scale plantations of foreign species (in Uruguay) is clearly a step in the wrong direction. From a social point of view, it could be called cultural genocide, ”says the CDM afforestation feasibility study on extensive pastures released in 2008 by the Japan Overseas Plantations for Wood and Paper Pulp (JOPP) program.

New onslaught of green capitalism

At the latest UNFCCC meetings in Tianjin, China, in October this year, developed countries again refused to make GHG emission reduction commitments and exerted enormous pressure to approve new carbon market mechanisms at the Conference of Parties (COP 16) to be held in December in Cancun.

Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solón denounced that some developed countries condition the adoption of greater commitments "to the creation of new market mechanisms and the establishment of rules that allow them to breach their obligations and transfer their responsibilities to developing countries."

At the same time, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), the World Bank, the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) gave a renewed boost to the carbon market at the V Latin American Carbon Forum (FLAC), held from October 13 to 15 in Santo Domingo.

In that Forum, more than 600 experts from 50 countries debated and analyzed the best ways to implement CDM projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The CDM has enormous potential to carry out lasting improvements in infrastructure and equipment, and to substitute fossil fuels with biodiesel or biomass, said Luis del Castillo, director of carbon for the Spanish company Abengoa Zeroemissions.

Del Castillo highlighted the importance of palm and sugar cane plantations as raw material for alternative energy generated from biomass by-products and vegetable oils.

UNEP announced that it will shortly present a series of studies demonstrating that solutions to combat climate change are already available and replicable, such as tree planting.

"Throughout the world, community-based programs and the effort of the business sector are challenging the status quo through innovation and creativity," said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.

In his opinion, these projects provide multiple benefits, from access to energy, improvements in public health and the reduction of environmental impacts, and help the transition towards a low-carbon “green growth”.

The World Bank plays a leading role in the development of the emissions market. In 1999 it entered the carbon market with the launch of the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), and since then its goal is to temporarily catalyze private investment towards clean and renewable energy.

Nine years later, the Bank managed a rapidly expanding carbon investment portfolio, "which enriches dirty industry and does little to help the 1.6 billion people living in poverty," explains the co-director of the Energy Network and Sustainable Economy from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) Janet Redman. [eleven].

The World Bank has allocated more than one billion dollars to the most toxic industries (chemical, coal-fired power plants, and steel, cement and aluminum factories), and despite its initial commitment to clean development, only five percent of its transfers The carbon market is used in the development of wind, solar and hydraulic energy. [12]

Currently, the World Bank promotes the emissions market through the PCF, the Bio Carbon Fund and the Carbon Fund for Community Development, while at the same time promoting the extraction and burning of fossil fuels on a much larger scale, challenged to its own Extractive Industries Division, which recommended phasing out financing for coal, oil and gas extraction.

The energy strategy of the World Bank as of 2011 consists of facilitating the transition towards the development of more sustainable energy, giving priority to hydroelectricity, the production of electricity with natural gas, biofuels and nuclear energy.

According to the World Bank, “although a new financial architecture is in the making… it is necessary to take advantage of existing instruments such as the Global Environment Facility, Carbon Funds linked to the CDM and the Joint Application Initiative for unit purchase contracts. reduction of emissions after 2010 ”.

According to the researcher from Friends of the Earth Brazil Camila Moreno, in May 2010 the Paris-Oslo partnership was created in order to promote REDD mechanisms. [13]

In October of this year, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC announced the launch of a preparation phase for REDD projects in developing countries at the next COP 16. Everything indicates that in Cancun the agreement on the forests.

The commodification of the climate

10 years after its implementation, the carbon market is a resounding failure. Since the Protocol was signed in 1997, the 36 industrialized signatory countries have failed to meet their commitments and GHG emissions have increased by almost 13 percent.

The United States, responsible for a quarter of global emissions, has not even signed the Protocol. 76 percent of carbon emissions come from industrialized countries and "continue to increase." [14]

Rather than “mitigate” global warming, the carbon market exacerbated the problem and further delayed its solution because it has allowed countries with higher emissions to completely evade their environmental commitments.

In reality, the trade in "carbon credits" discouraged the large corporations of electricity, steel, cement, pulp and paper and other greenhouse gas emitters to improve their industrial processes and invest in renewable energies, says the specialist from Greenpeace Joris den Blanken.

“Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what the world of finance and industry wanted. It will do absolutely nothing about climate change, but with it many people will earn a lot of money and the moment of truth will be postponed, ”criticizes environmentalist James Lovelock.

The carbon market commodifies "carbon sinks" and turns the elements and processes of nature into objects of purchase and sale. Rich countries not only cheat and fail to fulfill their commitments, but also start a new stage of privatization of nature never seen before, which has already begun with forests and which will extend to water and biodiversity.

“Forests will have a price for the amount of tons of carbon they are capable of absorbing; carbon credits or rights will be sold and bought like any merchandise. To ensure the ownership of the certificate buyers, a series of restrictions will be established in forests and jungles, affecting the sovereign rights of the countries and indigenous peoples ”, deplores President Evo Morales.

According to Camila Moreno, the carbon market is a kind of “Trojan horse” of capitalism that reproduces the history of oil with biomass, making “the worst and wildest fantasies of the commodification of nature come true”. [fifteen]

In response to the crisis, the capitalist system “reverses all the common goods of nature, including the right to life; it redoubles its control over the territories, and turns carbon into a new commodity ”, explains the researcher.

Forests are the last collective or public territories that are not on the market, but REDD will force their securitization through profound reforms in forest laws. We are talking about a new type of structural adjustment, in this case climate, and a counter agrarian reform on a global scale.

The paradox is that the power and ability to save the Earth passes into the hands of the same corporations that destroy the planet; while the “catechesis of carbon and environmental services” –the new “evangelization” of the NGOs– radiates in the countryside and in the most remote rural communities “like fire in the prairie”.

October 19, 2010 - SENA-Fobomade -


[1] REDD and the future of forests; Friends of the Earth Brazil, Porto Alegre.

[2] Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Institute for Policy Studies:; Carbon Trade Watch; Friends of the Earth:; CDM Watch:

[3] FACE markets carbon credits through two Dutch companies: Business for Climate and Triodos Climate Clearing House, and Business for Cimate and Triodos Bank and Kegado BV. It began operations in Ecuador in 1993 through the Ecuadorian Forestry FACE Program (PROFAFOR), which to date has planted 23 thousand hectares of pine and eucalyptus trees. It offers 165 dollars per hectare planted as an “incentive” to private owners and 130 dollars to peasant organizations. Certain contracts are signed as a mortgage, with terms of up to 99 years. The structure of the agreements contains penal clauses that oblige the communities to return more than 250% of the total money that FACE gave as compensation. It also establishes that the community must re-sow the plantation as many times as necessary in the event of an unforeseen event. This clause turns the contract into a coercive contracting tool that forces communities to serve the interests of the company. About REDD + and the Sociobosque program; REDD, the price of deforestation and massive usurpation of territories; Ecological Action,

[4] Carbon offsets, The growing pains of a growing market, Charles W. Schmidt, Public Health, Mexico vol.51 no.3 Cuernavaca May / June 2009. Originally published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 117, Number 2 Interview with Manuel de Castro, professor of Earth Physics at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the University of Castilla-La Mancha and contributing author in the Third Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Mario Cuéllar, Globalízate, February 2009.

[5] A dangerous obsession ”,

[6] International Programs for Climate Change: Lessons Learned from the European Union Emissions Trading Plan and the Kyoto Protocol Mechanism, November 2008.

[7] A realistic policy on international carbon offsets, April 2008, co-authored with Michael Wara, researcher and professor at Stanford School of Law.




[11] Marta Gómez Ferrals, Journalist of the Global Issues writing of Prensa Latina.

[12] The World Bank and Climate Change: Sustainability or Exploitation ?, Mary Tharin. Research students: Victoria Masucci and Christine Wilson. Academic Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, Ph.D., Sonoma State University. Upside Down World, February 11, 2009, translation Ernesto Carmona,

[13] Making REDD + Real: Guiding Principles and Operational Framework for Tropical Forest Carbon; Pavan Sukhdev and Kaavya Varma, October 2009.

[14] In 2007, industrialized countries registered a further increase in their greenhouse gas emissions for the seventh consecutive year, revealed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 40 developed nations bound by this instrument increased their emissions by one percent in the 2006-2007 period. The level reached is four points below that registered in 1990, but three points above the average produced between 2000 and 2007, the report adds.

[15] Workshop on Climate Financing in South America; Oxfam, Latindat, Jubileo Sur Americas and Brazil Network on Multilateral Financial Institutions, Sao Paulo, October 5-8, 2010.

Video: Is Decentralization Chinas Secret Sauce? (July 2022).


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