REDD: Pushing through the world’s rainforests to expand insatiable markets

While people have been mobilizing to tackle climate change; governments and corporations have paralyzed. They push for trade of carbon emissions -instead of direct cuts – which essentially serves as an expansion of markets, whereby the atmosphere and the world’s forests are commodified, grabbing the last pieces of land of indigenous communities.

Last December, the 17th annual conference of the United Nations about Climate Change (COP17) took place in Durban, South Africa. Apart from the fact that the outcomes of the conference are too loose and too much cast into the future, the solutions that are pushed the most are the ones tailored to satisfy the interests of wealthy nations and most of all Transnational Corporations.

While the evidence of catastrophes from climate change is ample, world’s leader do not talk about the real processes that brought humanity to this point. They are not talking about overconsumption in the Global North paired with hunger and destitution in the Global South. They are not talking about the leading roles of corporations in promoting short-sighted, unsustainable modes of production and consumption propelled by the objectives of profit, growth, power and hegemony. They are not discussing about global trade and international markets.

What they put forward is ‘green economy’ whereby the economy can continue growing (although it is self-evident that the natural resources are finite), sustaining the expansion of world’s wealthiest TNCs. We are trying to convince ourselves that we can keep on growing and consuming at the current, or even higher, rate while reducing carbon emissions. It is totally illogical and unrealistic, but we are so deeply entrenched in this system and this lifestyle, that we are so willing to accept such solutions and praise corporations as the ‘green messiahs’.

The reality is a bit different though. An example of the false solutions to Climate Change that we are going to contest here is REDD which stands for ‘Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation’ and REDD+  which entails the enhancement of forest carbon stocks. REDD is part of the ‘market mechanisms’, like CDMs (Clean Development Mechanisms), designed to curb carbon emissions. REDD are still not concrete and may take various forms; however they are mostly focusing on yearly funds towards developing countries as incentives to conserve their forests [1].

REDD – subjugating indigenous peoples

To begin with, REDD is a vague tool with narrow scope [2,3]. We currently lack extensive data about carbon stocks of world’s forests [2], so it is going to be cumbersome process subject to manipulation by the involved parties. Moreover, the definition of forest under a REDD programme is rather loose and may include monoculture tree plantations [2].

Forests are not only carbon stocks, they embed a host of services to the  local population and to humanity in general: they provide food, shelter and all the needs that indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities need. Forests encompass also the greatest numbers of biodiversity etc. These diverse services are largely ignored by REDD [1, 3].

Also the timber industry with large corporations and powerful lobbies might benefit from REDD. In such cases industrial logging operations are promoted as ‘sustainable forest management practices’ [4]. Most of all, such mechanisms are enabled by treaties and contracts which are favourable to the ones with capital to invest. REDD is a tool that will let large corporations to control world’s forest resources. Hence, the rights of indigenous peoples to live in their own territories in their own lifeways are going are violated. REDD is another form of privatization and land grabbing that imposes corporate governance over indigenous resources [9,10].

Here is the trailer of the 28-minute documtary ‘A darker shade of green: REDD alert and the Future of Forests. The whole documentary will be soon available by Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition.

Carbon markets – reducing nature to privatized commodity

The whole idea that it is impossible to change an unsustainable system that promotes inequality, degradation and decadence in the face of the most dramatic disasters that itself created is obscene. We are insatiable in our pursuit of material gain, we are incapable of reducing our overconsumption, or putting limits to unrealistic growth.

We know that this systemic error generates misery for the poor and hungry, we know that world’s natural resources are running out, we know that we are on the brink of ecological collapse and climate chaos, yet we are not generous when it comes to making a change, breaking out of the treadmill.

By putting carbon emissions in the global marketplace, we let the problem of our very survival to be solved by markets – it is actually a dismissal of our responsibility. What we do basically is that we commoditize the last bits of this planet; we privatize the atmosphere and the forests and continue reducing nature to monetary value [5,6,7]. Emissions trading became a ‘best practice’ as a relief to discharge the over-accumulated capital into new markets [8].

With carbon markets we actually grant corporations to pollute by trading their emissions, instead of looking boldly at the problem and take immediate action to really cut emissions [6]. In this way a direct support to better practices like renewable energy is also inhibited. Carbon markets do not assess which technologies to be used in which places; carbon markets are just markets. We also know that up to now it did not work, as the emissions rose under the years of the Kyoto protocol; carbon markets are unreliable [5,6].

Climate justice – supporting traditional forest management

After years of struggle, indigenous rights have been chartered and there is a lot of remarkable work conducted by individuals and groups to promote climate justice. The academic community has also acknowledged the importance of traditional ecological knowledge. A lot of programmes support indigenous lifeways as they underpin biocultural diversity. Instead of REDD mechanisms, traditional community-based forest management which is sustainable by default, should be reinforced in order to prevent deforestation [10].

What we can do is to engage ourselves in the global climate justice movement. Moreover, we can reduce our ecological footprint by gaining knowledge and understanding that can improve the way we live. We can also create alternatives at the local level to become less dependent to global markets for the things we need.

We can resist a further commodification of nature and the appropriation of world’s resources by few corporations.


[1] Miles L and Kapos V (2008). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation: global land-use implications. Science 13 June 2008: Vol. 320. no. 5882, pp. 1454 – 1455.

[2] Ernsting A and Rughani D (2008). Climate geo-engineering with ‘carbon negative’ bioenergy: climate saviour or climate endgame?. Available at:

[3] Mollicone D, Freibauer A, Schulze ED, Braatz S, Grassi G and Federici S (2007). Elements for the expected mechanisms on ‘reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, redd’ under unfccc. Environ. Res. Lett. 2 (2007) 045024 (7pp). IOP publishing.

[4] Global Witness (2009). Vested interests: industrial logging and carbon in tropical forests. Global witness report June 2009.

[5] Barker T (2008). Climate change, social justice and development. Development 2008, 51, 317-324.

[6] Kyoto’s ‘flexible mechanisms’ and the right to pollute the air (2009). Critical currents; contours of climate justice-ideas for shaping new climate and energy 6 october 2009. dag hammarskjold foundation uppsala.

[7] Lohmann L (2008). Carbon trading, climate justice and the production of ignorance: ten examples. Development 2008 51 (359-365).

[8] Mueller T and Passadakis A (2009). Green capitalism and the climate: it’s economic growth stupid! Critical currents; contours of climate justice-ideas for shaping new climate and energy politics.

[9] Global Forest Coalition (). Life as commerce: the impact of market-based conservation on indigenous peoples, local communities and women. Report CENSAT Agua Viva, COECOCEIBA, EQUATIONS, Alter Vida, the Timberwatch Coalition, October 2008.

[10] Lovera S (2009). Redd realities. Critical currents; contours of climate justice-ideas for shaping new climate and energy politics. No. 6 October 2009. Dag Hammarskjold oundation Uppsala.

2 thoughts on “REDD: Pushing through the world’s rainforests to expand insatiable markets

  1. Pingback: Biotech creates artificial forests of the future | Innovationedge

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