Seeing the Rainforests for the Trees in the Senate Climate Bill

By Rainforest Action Network

Senators Kerry and Boxer have said that they are on track to introduce the first step for Senate version of the ACES climate bill next Wednesday, September 30th. The draft will reportedly include an emissions reduction target of 20% from 2005 levels by 2020, an modest improvement over ACES’ 17% target, but nowhere near the emissions reductions required to respond to the climate crisis.

Still, the Senate political scene is heavily influenced by coal and agriculture states and even these modest targets face a major uphill battle. Instead of reducing emissions, big oil, king coal and the senators they support are looking to carbon offsets as a solution. ACES offers 2 billion tons of emissions reductions to be achieved through offsets, a significant chunk of these are REDD offsets, also known as reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation from tropical rainforests.

Yes, REDD is promising for protecting forests. But if the Senate bill is as bad as the House ACES bill was, then REDD is poised to do more harm than good. In order to actually protect forests, the Senate bill’s forest provisions should:

1) Ensure that REDD measures are not a substitute for aggressive domestic emissions reductions.
2) Prioritize biodiversity and conservation, instead of logging and plantations. The House bill doesn’t even define the term ‘forest’, meaning that REDD offset credits may be encouraging converting rainforests into monocultural paper or oil palm plantations.
3) Protect and enforce Indigenous Peoples’ rights to free, prior and informed consent, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
4) Create an international fund for REDD instead of tradeable forest carbon offsets.
5) Build a firewall to keep REDD carbon emission reductions out of fossil fuel emissions markets. There should be no offsets trading between forest and fossil carbon.
6) Strengthen weak forest governance in tropical countries with high rates of corruption and poor law enforcement.

If the Senate climate bill’s REDD provisions fail to include these safeguards, than the US climate bill will be doing more harm than good for tropical rainforests. You can take action on the Senate climate bill today; go to the RAN action center and tell your Senators to fight for strong REDD provisions in the climate bill today!