Fool Us Once, Shame on You — Fool us Twice and Now We’re Skeptical

By Kathy T. Egland — Chisholm Legacy Project Advisory Committee

As week one of COP 26 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the accomplishments and failures of the negotiations. On the surface, day one of COP 26 appeared to have gotten off to a robust start with the announcement of the Declaration on Forests signed by more than 100 world leaders that pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. This was hailed as the COP 26’s first major deal. It was noted that even rainforest mogul Brazil, where huge swatches of the world’s most valued Amazon rainforest have been cut down or burned by wildfires, was one of the signatories. The pledge even came with a bonus of $19.2 billion in private and public sector funding.

The U.S. and the UK signed the declaration. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests, and end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian”. In the words of Greta Thunberg: “Blah, blah, blah.” 

So why the skepticism? Well, first of all, this isn’t the first time such a pledge has been made. A similar deal in 2014 failed to have any impact whatsoever on deforestation. Next, given the enormous benefits of trees, the urgency and time constraints to reach 1.5 C, why would we allow a vast 9 year span to cease or reverse deforestation? By 2030, deforestation will have exacerbated global warming with the escalation in release of stored CO2 from cutting down trees. There’s a rush already to cut down as many trees as possible in the southeastern U.S. Many will be used in a toxic process to manufacture wood pellets for bioenergy use in the EU and UK.

And what’s worse, UK based wood bioenergy companies, like Drax and Enviva, are getting subsidies in the EU, UK and U.S. to cut trees, compress them into pellets, then ship them from the U.S. across the Atlantic to be burned for energy. 

What an irony that we worry about forest fires destroying our forests but don’t mind cutting them down, disproportionately exposing BIPOC communities to the toxic pollution of manufacturing our forests into wood pellets, then burning them for energy, claiming they’re a “renewable” energy source. What a crock! Proforestration is far better than reforestation because it takes many decades for young trees to absorb the carbon equivalent of mature trees. We cannot plant our way out of the carbon crisis. Let’s keep our trees in the ground.

Drax, the UK based largest energy provider, has converted its former fossil fuel burning facilities to burning wood pellets. Scientists have warned that wood bioenergy emits more CO2 than coal. However, flawed provisions of the rules under Article 6 of the Paris Rulebook that prohibits double counting, has a loophole that has resulted in zero accounting of wood biomass – from the process of cutting the trees to the manufacturing, transport and burning of the pellets. 

False solutions, idle promises and mystery math will not get us to 1.5C. Fool us once- shame on you. Fool us twice? No way!

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