22 May: Rapidly growing emissions from tourism related aviation, and proposals to offset these through fraudulent projects are a threat to biodiversity and communities, warns the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) on International Day for Biodiversity , which has a special theme of ‘sustainable tourism,’ this year. Such fraudulent offsets also go against the Paris Climate Agreement say GFC.
Aviation emissions and potential offsets were informally discussed at last week’s climate talks in Bonn  when negotiators from about two hundred countries met to work out a technical “rulebook” for putting the Paris Climate Agreement into practice.
Despite the fact that aviation is the most rapidly growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, the sector was virtually excluded from the Paris Agreement and allowed to develop its own plans to reduce its emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN body that governs aviation. ICAO’s plans are widely criticized for not really reducing aviation emissions. Rather, they boil down to a massive offsetting scheme, and some limited efficiency measures that will not compensate for the increased emissions triggered by the growing sector.
“The aviation industry must reduce its spiraling emissions, not offset them via monoculture tree plantations and other fraudulent projects that destroy biodiversity and give them a license to continue polluting,” said Simone Lovera, director of the Global Forest Coalition. “ICAO is trying to cheat the Paris Agreement by buying offsets from projects that are already included in national plans of countries, leading to double counting, and fraudulent accounting.”
Commercial monoculture tree plantations are increasingly seen as a source of cheap carbon offsets. They cause serious negative effects on biodiversity and local communities , including undermining climate resilience. Massive fires in Chile, linked to monoculture plantation wildfires, recently caused more than 600,000 hectares of land to go up in flames .
By ICAOs own standards, double-counting of offsets should be avoided, offsets must be permanent, and must “do no harm.” But carbon stored in trees is not permanent, it is released back into the environment when trees are burnt or cut, and plantations do cause harm.
“Tree plantations in countries like India destroy natural ecosystems, and the livelihoods of communities that depend on these ecosystems”, says Souparna Lahiri of the All India Forum of Forest Movements. “Offsets for aviation emissions adds insult to injury in a sector that already causes significant harm to forest-dependent communities, as it often triggers the violent resettlement of communities for tiger reserves and other tourism-oriented biodiversity projects.”
 Global Forest Coalition is a worldwide coalition of almost 80 NGOs and Indigenous peoples’ organizations from 53 different countries striving for rights-based, socially just forest conservation policies. Link: http://globalforestcoalition.org/media
 The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for this year is Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism. See: https://www.cbd.int/idb/
 The forty-sixth sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 46) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 46) as well as the third part of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA 1-3) took place from 8 to 18 May 2017, in Bonn, Germany. See: http://unfccc.int/meetings/bonn_may_2017/meeting/10076.php
 For negative impacts of monoculture tree planttions see : http://globalforestcoalition.org/on-21st-september-the-world-must-know-the-true-costs-of-industrial-monoculture-tree-plantations/
 See: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/29/chiles-forest-fires-poor-planning-fire-chiefs-monoculture-fire-breaks
Ashlesha Khadse (Media Officer, GFC)
Cell and whatsapp: +91 8600839193 (India)
Simone Lovera (Executive Director, GFC)
Global Forest Coalition +595-981-407375 (Paraguay)
Photo credit: Holgi (Pixabay)