Unfortunately, many measures to tackle climate changes are inappropriate it is what is called false solutions. To better understand climate change measures, it’s important to clarify two important concepts:
- mitigation: are the interventions to reduce on one hand the source of emissions and the emissions themselves, and to increase in the other hand the absorption of greenhouse gases.
- adaptation: regards the initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural systems and humans against occurring or planned climate change effects.
Mitigation actually wants to act at the roots of the issue, while adaptation is an answer to the effects of climate change.
To illustrate how false solutions provide wrong answers to climate change, here some emblematic examples:
Carbon market emerged in 2010 at the Cancun COP and was confirmed in Rio in 2012. It consists in a financial market mechanism (also called Cap and Trade) with a form of emissions trading. Carbon credits are today at the center of the emission reduction policies to tackle emissions reduction. In Europe, we implement the ETS – European Trading Systems, a pilot experiment in carbon credit at global level.
The main limit of this mechanism is that it actually answers financial markets logic rather than emission reduction objectives. By supporting the implementation of a market for the exchange of carbon emission permits, who has more money and pollute more is allowed to buy the right to emit more from countries having less emission. By this way the quantitative limit of emissions is settled by the market but on the other hand it does not allow realistic diminution of emissions.
During the Genoa meeting in preparation to the Paris COP, all the countries part of the annex 1 of the UNFCC (majors CO2 emitters countries) were recognized as having respected their reduction targets. Meanwhile, 2013 has been recognized as the year with more Co2 emissions ever. So, how does most emitting could appear as having respected the diminishing targets, if the level of emission has not been reduced? This is because of the carbon market.
So the main criticism of the mechanism lies in the fact that it does not support true emission reduction and maintain inequality between who has more or less economic capacities.
This is another false solution and consists in a mechanism supposed to protect forest areas as the capture part of the CO2 emitted worldwide.
It presents many critical points, starting from the easing off of property rights over forests and other environmental services forests produce. Secondly, it offers to polluters, an easy way to compensate for emissions by planting trees (whatever be the type of plantation) including intensive tree plantations, without foreseeing any substantial change practice. As a consequence, REDD+ acts as an incentive to the development of intensive tree plantation for productive purposes such as palm oil. Finally, it violates communities’ rights considering monocultures as a reforestation strategy.
A similar measure is the Blue Carbon Initiative: it focuses on the carbon captured by coastal marine ecosystems, such as the mangroves but it has same limits as the REDD+ mechanism.
Climate-smart agriculture Defined by FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization) as “an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate”. None of the promoters delineated the specific techniques involved allowing the concept to be co-opted by some of the world’s biggest industrial contributors to climate change. The climate smart agriculture consists mainly in intensive agricultures, GMOs, patent seeds, agro toxic and fossil fuel dependent agriculture systems. The result is more likely that such initiative will rather produce a major concentration of agricultural land and create dependence of farmers towards seeds modified to resist climate change than concretely provide those most vulnerable, as small farmers, with means to tackle climate change. According to Via Campesina (international peasant’s movement), this solution violates food sovereignty and denies the role of farmers in environmental protection.
A different approach is needed: seeds, soils and biodiversity are real solutions to climate change if only in the hands of local farmers and citizens. As the Pact for the Earth – promoted by seeds savers organizations and concerned citizens and leaders – reads:
“We cannot address Climate Change without recognizing the central role of the industrial and globalized food system, which contributes more than 40% to greenhouse gas emissions if we account for deforestation, animals in concentrated animal feeding operations, plastics and aluminum packaging, long distance transport and food waste. We cannot solve climate change without small scale, ecological agriculture, based on biodiversity, living seeds and living soils and local food systems, with minimal food miles and devoid of plastic packaging. Small scale ecological agriculture has an essential role in helping to mitigate, adapt and build resilience to climatic changes”.
Sustainable energy for all – SE4ALL
Launched in 2011 this programme foresees to improve the access to energy and double the level of energy efficiency and renewable energy at global level by 2030. As denounced by the global forest coalition, it would sound like a great initiative if it was not for the structure of it board’s directors: members coming from the main energy, industrial and financial multinationals as well as other fossil fuels investors, only 5 members are from governments and 3 from NGOs. Among the advisory board members we can quote CEOs from the Royal Dutch Shell’s, MASDAR, Statoil and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. How could the people that are actually responsible for the current crisis be part of the solution?
Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP)
Composed by 75 companies, financial institutions, governmental agencies and NGO representatives, the programme aims to develop a compensation system for biodiversity loss.
Main critics points out that it will further monetize natural resources and legitimate the practice. In fact, the programme allows to compensate environmental degradation in a given area through the creation anywhere in the world of a similar ecosystem. This is one of the limit of the concrete measure taken today: to replace biodiversity in one place by putting it in another place rather than protect and ensure that biodiversity is conserved everywhere.
Large scale biofuel production
This measure actually increases large scale intensive energy monoculture extending the exploitation frontiers to new lands and increasing biodiversity loss and soil erosion. Biofuels are being sold as an alternative to fossil fuel energy but they actually imply a lots of complex issues (land consumption, land grabbing, deforestation, etc) and its combustion still contribute to emissions.
Geo-engineering, or climate geo-engineering, refers to a set of proposed techniques and technologies to deliberately intervene in and alter Earth systems on a large scale – particularly to climate system manipulations as a “technofix” for climate change. It is increasingly suggested as a way to “buy more time” for real, transformative change in the future, or as an insurance policy for our great grandchildren, thus passing on the difficult burden to the next generation.
One of the proposed interventions is carbon dioxide removal, that consists of removing Co2 from the atmosphere and capturing it somewhere else and solar radiation management that aims to offset greenhouse gases by limiting earth absorption of solar radiation.
The main issue with these kinds of solutions is that they are still in development and most Climate Change experts do not value them much, because they imply many uncertainties regarding their effectiveness and possible negative impacts. In addition, these solutions still do not tackle the root of the issue: limiting the cause of climate change.
Proposed as a clear energy, it is one of the most dangerous energy source ever.
Session “False solutions to climate change”
Ruchi Shroff – Navdanya International, Lucie Greyl – A Sud onlus
Climate change: challenges and solutions – Download
Climate change: false solutions – Download
- Fighting back against dirty energy, false solutions and climate change – FoEI article
- False solutions to climate change – Global Justice Ecology Project article
- Seed Freedom