Alberta oilsands

UN timber deal would OK “a new form of colonialism," critics charge

By Alexander Kelly

COPENHAGEN – Clayton Thomas-Muller hails from Ontario, Canada -- a First World nation that’s loaded with timber. Ana Filippini comes from nearly the opposite end of the Western Hemisphere, Uruguay, a developing country with vast grasslands known as pampas.

Despite the differences in their homelands, both made their way here to deliver a message to a United Nations conference on climate change:

Your plans to save the Earth could kill our people.

Specifically, they fear for indigenous people who depend on natural forests and grasslands.

A United Nations proposal being negotiated here this week to govern cutting of forests – which accounts for an estimated one-fifth of the human-caused global warming – fails to distinguish between natural and manufactured forests. It’s an omission that would enable timber corporations to log virtually any intact forest on the planet, replacing it with immense swaths of industrial farmland containing only one type of tree, critics charge.

An indigenous Brazilian man addresses a forum on deforestation and native peoples at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen that ends Friday. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan. 

Although the world is likely to hear on Friday that an agreement on slowing deforestation is one of the few bright spots to emerge from two weeks of UN talks on a climate treaty here, indigenous activists see the agreement as anything but a success.

Byline: 

Changing the political system = saving the Earth, say protesters at Copenhagen climate talks

COPENHAGEN – T-shirts. Banners. Picket signs. Chants. Those were the weapons most demonstrators wielded to get across their plea as tens of thousands rallied to send a message to United Nations climate-treaty negotiators meeting here.

Their overriding point was probably best summed up in one placard: “Change the politics, not the climate.” Another frequently seen sign: "There is no Planet B:" The Copenhagen march was echoed by an international campaign of demonstrations.

[caption id="attachment_7155" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="InvestigateWest photo by Christopher Crow."]InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan.[/caption]

The protesters targeted a proposal emerging from global negotiations here that wouldseek to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide by putting a price on the right to pollute. A similar system has worked well to control acid rain in the United States, by most accounts. But critics say exporting that concept to a worldwide climate treaty is foolhardy because it privatizes the right to pollute. (Jim Tankersley of the LA Times has an interesting look at what goes on inside the negotiations versus what's transpiring outside.)

The Saturday protest, billed as the largest likely during the climate talks, was not without violence. A few hundred of the 30,000 or more demonstrators tossed bricks at police, smashed windows and set off homemade explosives near the end of the march.

Tar sands' greenhouse gas emissions underestimated, report claims

The amount of greenhouse gases to be unleashed in converting Alberta's tar sands into useable energy has been seriously underestimated, according to a new report by environmentalists.

Out in the last hour or so on the Edmonton Journal's site is a seven-paragraph story by the Financial Post on a report that says official estimates of the emissions fail to take into account that oil companies are knocking down a whole lot of boreal forest in the process. The forest stores tons -- literally -- of carbon.

The Financial Post says the report was done by Global Forest Watch Canada, and we were able to located a Sept. 23 report (PDF) that appears to be the subject of the story. Quoting from page 13:

 The bituminous sands Surface Mineable Area totals 488,968 (hectares) of northern Alberta's boreal ecosystems. In addition to surface mining, in situ bitumen production will occur over a projected area of 13,553,246 ha (Oil Sands Administration Area minus the Surface Mineable Area), although the availability of the entire area for bitumen industrial activities may change. Few, if any, of the biocarbon emissions resulting from land use change caused by the bituminous sands industrial activities in these areas are reported.

The whole report pretty much reads that way. It looks like a well-documented review of all the greenhouse gas emissions to be expected from mining the tar sands, aka the oil sands. It goes on to blame the counting rules of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among other factors, for the undercounting.

No response from the industry in what's on the web so far.