Global Forest Coalition Économie circulaire ou cercle vicieux? Comment la capture par les entreprises de l’élaboration des politiques et des incitations perverses entraîne la déforestation

 Global Forest Coalition Économie circulaire ou cercle vicieux? Comment la capture par les entreprises de l’élaboration des politiques et des incitations perverses entraîne la déforestation


Notre nouveau rapport dans notre série sur le couvert forestier analyse le cycle d’auto-renforcement de la capture par les entreprises de l’élaboration des politiques gouvernementales et des incitations perverses qui nuisent à la biodiversité. Il comprend une analyse par des groupes membres et des alliés proches dans neuf pays différents sur les incitations à l’expansion de l’élevage non durable, des plantations commerciales d’arbres, de la production de bioénergie et d’autres industries entraînant la perte de forêts. Des exemples d’Amérique latine, d’Europe, d’Asie et d’Afrique montrent à quel point ces incitations sont enracinées en raison de la prise de décision par les entreprises au niveau national et international. Le rapport conclut que la seule façon d’arrêter la déforestation est de briser le cercle vicieux de l’influence des entreprises sur l’élaboration des politiques publiques et le soutien aux industries nuisibles qu’elle crée.

Le rapport est lancé en anglais, espagnol, français, russe et portugais (trois articles) lors d’un webinaire le 21 janvier – nous espérons que vous pourrez vous joindre à nous!

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Introduction: sur les forêts, la finance et les partenariats pervers

Par Simone Lovera, Coalition mondiale pour les forêts, Paraguay

Bovins fuyant les incendies dans un ranch qui était autrefois la forêt. João Paulo Guimarães

L’une des plus grandes idées fausses en matière de politique de conservation des forêts est l’hypothèse selon laquelle les forêts se développent grâce à l’argent.1

Une analyse comparative de 20152 de la relation entre l’investissement dans le secteur forestier et la conservation des forêts dans 19 pays qui ont réussi à arrêter et inverser la perte de couvert forestier n’a trouvé aucune relation statistique. Si quelques pays qui ont reçu d’importants financements pour la conservation des forêts et d’autres investissements forestiers ont stoppé ou annulé la perte de forêts (comme la Chine), de nombreux pays qui n’ont reçu pratiquement aucun investissement dans leur secteur forestier, y compris les pays les moins avancés, ont une situation stable, voire en croissance. couvert forestier naturel. De toute évidence, la relation entre l’investissement dans le secteur forestier et la conservation des forêts est pour le moins ambiguë. Les agences forestières gouvernementales et les grandes organisations de conservation des forêts peuvent dépendre de l’argent, mais la conservation et la restauration des forêts se feront simplement gratuitement, à condition que les forêts ne soient pas détruites par l’activité humaine.

Biologiquement parlant, bien sûr, les forêts ne poussent pas sur l’argent – elles étaient parfaitement capables de se conserver et de se restaurer pendant des millions d’années avant même que l’argent ne soit inventé. De plus, les peuples autochtones et les communautés dont l’économie est principalement non monétaire ont tendance à prendre très bien soin de leurs forêts,3 tandis que le bilan des économies monétaires a tendance à être beaucoup moins positif. Les évaluations de la résilience de la conservation communautaire que la GFC a facilitées entre 2015 et 2019 ont montré que la reconnaissance des droits de gouvernance forestière, le respect du rôle des peuples autochtones, des communautés locales et des femmes dans la conservation des forêts et la fourniture de services publics abordables (sinon gratuits) comme les soins de santé, l’éducation, l’eau et l’électricité étaient considérées comme bien plus utiles pour les initiatives de conservation communautaire que les investissements financiers.4 Les chercheurs ont même averti que l’introduction de l’idée selon laquelle la conservation doit être payée pourrait saper les systèmes de valeurs traditionnels qui sont au cœur de nombreuses initiatives de conservation communautaires.5

Ainsi, si le lien positif entre les forêts et la finance est contesté, le lien négatif ne l’est pas. Il est largement reconnu que les incitations perverses sous forme de subventions et autres incitations économiques pour les secteurs qui déclenchent la perte de forêts sont un facteur clé de la déforestation et de la dégradation des forêts. Comme le montrent les exemples de ce rapport, dans de nombreux pays, la perte de forêts est le résultat d’activités et de secteurs qui sont soutenus avec enthousiasme par des mécanismes de soutien économique tels que les subventions des mêmes gouvernements qui se sont engagés à travers les objectifs de développement durable à mettre fin à la déforestation d’ici 2020.6 Pour cette raison, les Parties à la Convention sur la diversité biologique (CDB) ont convenu en 2010, dans le cadre de leur premier plan stratégique, que «D’ici 2020, au plus tard, les incitations, y compris les subventions, nuisibles à la biodiversité seront éliminées, progressivement supprimées ou réformées afin de minimiser ou d’éviter les impacts négatifs…»

Malheureusement, la 5e édition des Perspectives mondiales de la diversité biologique qui rendait compte de l’état de la mise en œuvre du premier plan stratégique de la CDB a conclu en 2020 que «peu de progrès» avaient été accomplis dans l’élimination des incitations perverses au cours de la dernière décennie.7 Le fait que si peu de progrès aient été réalisés est remarquable, car la suppression progressive des incitations perverses et des investissements publics néfastes serait non seulement l’une des mesures les plus efficaces pour arrêter la perte de forêts et atténuer le changement climatique, mais elle pourrait en fait faire économiser beaucoup d’argent aux gouvernements. . Économiser de l’argent devrait être un co-avantage bienvenu des politiques et mesures environnementales maintenant que la plupart des gouvernements sont profondément endettés en raison des coûts économiques de la crise du COVID-19. On pourrait imaginer qu’il pourrait être plus utile pour les gouvernements d’investir dans les soins de santé ces jours-ci, plutôt que d’investir dans des secteurs qui déclenchent la déforestation et augmentent ainsi le risque de futures pandémies.8

Alors pourquoi y a-t-il eu si peu de progrès dans le domaine de la réduction des incitations perverses pour les secteurs qui causent la perte de forêts? Pourquoi les gouvernements continuent-ils d’avoir des contradictions majeures dans leurs régimes économiques liés aux forêts, dépensant des millions de dollars pour la conservation des forêts tout en gaspillant des milliards dans des secteurs et des activités qui détruisent les forêts?

La réponse réside dans la prise en charge par les entreprises de l’élaboration des politiques gouvernementales et des financements liés aux forêts et aux secteurs qui causent la déforestation, y compris en particulier les secteurs de la foresterie, de l’agriculture et de l’élevage. La capture des entreprises est définie par le Réseau international pour les droits économiques, sociaux et culturels comme «Les moyens par lesquels une élite économique mine la réalisation des droits de l’homme et de l’environnement en exerçant une influence indue sur les décideurs nationaux et internationaux et les institutions publiques.»9 Friends of the Earth International identifie plusieurs formes d’activités que les entreprises entreprennent pour influencer l’élaboration des politiques nationales et internationales: faire pression sur les décideurs dans les coulisses, organiser des événements sociaux et d’autres formes d’« hospitalité  », financer des partis politiques, nommer des alliés du secteur privé à des positions publiques, financement de groupes de réflexion et participation à des groupes de travail nationaux ou internationaux ou à d’autres organes influents.dix

Une autre tendance très problématique facilitant la prise en charge par les entreprises de l’élaboration des politiques publiques est la tendance croissante des gouvernements et des fonds et agences intergouvernementaux à associer leur soutien financier aux projets de développement durable dits à des investissements du secteur privé, créant ainsi des dépendances financières mutuelles. Si les projets gouvernementaux dépendent, en partie ou entièrement, du financement des entreprises, les agences gouvernementales concernées ne seront pas enclines à prendre des mesures comme la suppression des incitations perverses qui compromettraient la rentabilité de ces généreux donateurs.

Il y a aussi une idée fausse sur un manque supposé de ressources économiques pour lutter contre la déforestation, ses moteurs et la perte d’écosystèmes et les crises du changement climatique en général, d’où le mantra sur la nécessité de mobiliser des financements privés. La réalité est cependant différente. En réorientant les financements, les ressources et les incitations perverses loin des secteurs nuisibles (comme les combustibles fossiles, l’armée et l’agro-industrie) et en les plaçant là où ils devraient être, ce problème serait en grande partie résolu.

Le financement mixte se présente sous de nombreuses formes différentes. Il comprend des partenariats public-privé dans lesquels les donateurs publics et les entreprises contribuent en nature ou financièrement à une initiative conjointe. Il comprend également des subventions publiques pour les investissements du secteur privé ou, par exemple, des garanties gouvernementales pour les investissements privés qui rendent plus attractif pour les investisseurs privés de mettre leur argent dans des projets présentant des risques environnementaux ou sociaux potentiels. Des fonds comme le Fonds pour l’environnement mondial (FEM) fournissent un financement de démarrage pour des initiatives telles que Nature + Accelerator de l’UICN,11 qui vise à faciliter les investissements du secteur privé dans des «solutions fondées sur la nature»12 qui visent à utiliser la nature comme une «solution» pour accroître les bénéfices des entreprises. Le Fonds vert pour le climat (FVC) a également commencé à mobiliser des financements privés pour l’atténuation et l’adaptation au changement climatique en combinant son financement avec un large éventail d’activités commerciales hautement discutables, voire clairement destructrices, telles que les plantations d’arbres et l’élevage intensif (voir ici).

Comme le montrent les exemples de ce rapport, partout dans le monde, les entreprises, les producteurs agro-industriels et d’autres acteurs du secteur privé bénéficient de montants importants de subventions directes ou indirectes, d’avantages fiscaux et d’autres incitations pour des activités qui portent préjudice aux forêts et aux populations forestières. . Il n’est donc pas surprenant qu’ils fassent pression sur les décideurs politiques contre leur élimination, leur retrait progressif ou leur réorientation. Les secteurs qui ont un impact dévastateur sur les forêts du monde, comme l’élevage industriel et la production de bioénergie, n’existeraient probablement même pas sans les milliards de dollars de soutien public qu’ils ont reçus au cours des dernières décennies.

Ce rapport commence par une analyse des incitations perverses et des subventions pour l’intensification et l’expansion de l’élevage non durable en Argentine, au Paraguay, au Brésil, en RDC et au Népal, et comment cela entraîne la destruction des écosystèmes riches en biodiversité, les émissions de carbone et les conflits avec les communautés. Il examine également comment la prise de décision par les entreprises aux niveaux national, régional et international a conduit à de fortes subventions et incitations à des pratiques destructrices dans les secteurs agricole et forestier, et garantit que la réforme de ces incitations reste une possibilité lointaine. Au niveau national, l’influence de l’industrie de la pâte et du papier sur la prise de décision au Portugal a des impacts directs sur les communautés paysannes du Mozambique et, au Royaume-Uni, le lobbying intense des propriétaires de la plus grande centrale électrique à biomasse du monde a garanti un énorme subventions pour les années à venir. Au niveau régional, nous explorons comment les lobbyistes d’entreprises travaillant pour le compte de l’agro-industrie ont bloqué la réforme de la plus grande incitation perverse de toutes, la politique agricole commune de l’UE. À l’échelle internationale, nous examinons comment la capture des mécanismes mondiaux de décision et de financement sur le climat encourage les plantations commerciales d’arbres, la bioénergie et d’autres fausses solutions aux crises climatiques et de la biodiversité.

Dans la conclusion, nous dégageons les points communs entre la diversité des exemples de ce rapport et faisons valoir que le seul moyen de mettre fin à la fois à la déforestation et aux incitations nuisibles à la biodiversité est de briser le cercle vicieux de l’influence des entreprises. sur l’élaboration des politiques publiques, les incitations perverses qui en résultent et les obstacles souvent insurmontables à la réforme des subventions qu’elle crée.

1 https://www.un.org/esa/forests/news/2020/11/policy-brief-on-forest-financing-and-covid-19/index.html
2 Lovera, S., Gupta, J. et van Ros-Tonen, M., 2015. Forêts, finances et contes de fées: l’inefficacité économique de REDD +. Communication présentée au XIVe Congrès forestier mondial, septembre 2015, Durban.
3 Nepstad D, Schwartzman S, Bamberger B, Santilli M, Ray D, Schlesinger P, Lefebvre P, Alencar A, Prinz E, Fiske G, Rolla A. 2006. Inhibition of Amazon Deforestation and Fire by Parks and Indigenous Lands, Conservation Biology , 20 (1), 65-73.
4 https://globalforestcoalition.org/ccri-reports/
5 https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/wdevel/v28y2000i6p1001-1016.html et https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092180090900456X

6 https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/metadata/?Text=&Goal=15&Target=15.2
7 https://www.cbd.int/gbo/gbo5/publication/gbo-5-en.pdf, p.12
8 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02341-1
9 https://www.escr-net.org/corporateaccountability/corporatecapture/about

dix https://www.foei.org/what-we-do/corporate-capture-explained
11 https://www.iucn.org/theme/nature-based-solutions/initiatives/nature-accelerator-fund
12 Pour plus d’informations sur ce sujet, voir Forest Cover 61: https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-cover-61


L’Argentine au bord du gouffre: les subventions et le soutien de l’État à l’élevage industriel et à l’élevage de matières premières détruisent les zones humides

Par Emilio Spataro, Amigos de la Tierra, Argentine

L’écosystème des zones humides des basses terres du sud, Argentine. Los Bajos No Se Tocan

L’Argentine fait face à la pire crise économique de son histoire. Outre les problèmes structurels du pays, les mesures néolibérales adoptées au cours des quatre dernières années de la précédente administration gouvernementale (2015-19) ont aggravé la dette nationale et la fuite des capitaux. En 2020, malgré le passage à une administration progressiste, la situation a été aggravée par les conséquences de la pandémie.1

Mais au-delà des questions de finances publiques et de l’épuisement des réserves de la Banque centrale, le gouvernement argentin continue de développer des plans et des projets pour soutenir et étendre le modèle extractiviste en général et l’agro-industrie en particulier.

Les mesures gouvernementales dans ce domaine comprennent «l’initiative de 200 millions de tonnes de céréales, de graines oléagineuses et de légumineuses», qui a été publiée au Journal officiel de l’État dans la résolution 216/2020.2 et vanté dans les médias par le chef du ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Élevage et de la Pêche, Luis Basterra.

L’objectif du plan est que l’Argentine produise 200 millions de tonnes de céréales par an d’ici 2030.3 Cela implique le développement de politiques publiques telles que les avantages fiscaux, l’accès au financement et la réduction des taux d’intérêt, entre autres. De même, l’initiative vise à récupérer 500 000 à 1 million d’hectares supplémentaires de terres agricoles dans des zones tampons ou des zones d’accès restreint en utilisant les nouvelles technologies: OGM, biologie synthétique et agriculture numérique.4 Selon le projet, cela se traduirait par une augmentation de 20 milliards de dollars des exportations du secteur sur une période de cinq à dix ans, pour atteindre un total de 57 milliards de dollars.5

Ce plan ne représente rien de moins que l’avancée des monocultures de soja, de blé, de maïs et de riz (entre autres) dans les zones humides et les forêts indigènes, étant donné qu’il ne cible pas les terres déjà dégradées par l’agriculture ou l’élevage.

Elle aura également un impact énorme sur l’expansion de l’élevage, tant en Argentine que dans d’autres pays. Selon un rapport de la Bolsa de Comercio de Rosario, 75% de la production nationale de maïs (12,4 Mt) est destinée à l’alimentation animale.6 Parallèlement, 55% de la production de soja du pays est exportée pour être consommée par les animaux, et l’Argentine est le plus grand producteur et exportateur au monde de farine et d’autres dérivés de soja destinés à l’alimentation animale, principalement vers la Chine.7

Bien qu’il n’y ait pas d’informations sur le pourcentage de terres à consacrer à chaque culture et à l’élevage, une reconnaissance de la transformation des zones naturelles telles que les zones humides est explicitement mentionnée dans l’annexe à la Résolution 216, qui cite «des projets de modification des cultures céréalières dans les basses terres du sud ».

Les basses terres du sud, situées dans les provinces de Chaco, Santiago del Estero et principalement Santa Fe, comptent parmi les zones humides les plus vastes et les plus importantes de la région du Gran Chaco en Amérique du Sud. D’une superficie d’environ quatre millions d’hectares, ils consistent en une dépression sujette aux inondations où les eaux de ruissellement se remplissent et relient les lacs, les marécages et les estuaires. Ils abritent des espèces menacées et / ou vulnérables telles que les oiseaux, y compris le bécasseau à poitrine chamoisée (Tryngites subruficollis) et le canastero d’Hudson (Asthenes hudsoni), cette dernière étant une espèce endémique des basses terres du sud.8 Ils font également partie des derniers refuges du cerf de la Pampa (Ozotoceros bezoarticus leucogaster) et ont été identifiées par BirdLife International parmi les zones importantes pour la biodiversité et les oiseaux (ZICO) du monde.9

Les basses terres du sud, cependant, subissent une pression énorme pour libérer des terres pour l’agriculture industrielle et l’élevage, poussées par l’État argentin et les gouvernements provinciaux. Au début de 2020, le gouvernement fédéral a annoncé des dépenses de 60 millions de dollars sur les canaux pour drainer trois millions d’hectares de cette zone humidedix dans le but de réduire les impacts des inondations. Aujourd’hui, dans une année de sécheresse prononcée, avec l’inclusion explicite des basses terres du sud dans l’initiative «200 millions de tonnes d’ici 2030», il est clair qu’elles cherchent uniquement à utiliser les fonds publics pour transformer les zones humides pour les monocultures agricoles et l’expansion de l’élevage.

La grande industrie agroalimentaire est le moteur de l’expansion agricole sur les terres naturelles, financée et subventionnée par l’État. Le Consejo Agroindustrial Argentino,11 une puissante association industrielle, ont présenté leurs plans directement au président,12 et ils s’opposent également fermement aux initiatives de la société civile visant à accroître les protections juridiques des zones humides et des forêts qui pourraient entraver leur vision.

Le Rural Outreach Board, un groupe d’entreprises composé de la Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA), de la Federación Agraria, de Coninagro et des Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas (CRA), s’oppose à la création d’un observatoire des produits agrochimiques pour documenter officiellement et rendre publiques les informations sur la contamination par fumigations agricoles. Il s’oppose également à la loi sur les incendies, qui vise à interdire les changements d’utilisation des terres après des incendies de 30 ans dans les zones humides et 60 ans dans les forêts. Mais la plus grande opposition est à la loi sur les zones humides, à propos de laquelle le conseil a déclaré: « Sur la base d’une définition large et discutable des zones humides, si elle réussissait, elle exclurait de grandes parties du territoire national de l’activité productive ».13 L’ARC s’est également opposée en raison de l’impact sur la production animale: «Nous ne sommes pas d’accord avec une loi budgétaire qui implique l’ensemble de la nation et surtout les zones humides avec une définition aussi large impliquant 25 ou 30% du territoire national et qui compliquera un secteur productif qui produit depuis de nombreuses années de la viande dans les champs de plaine … « .14

Ainsi, nous voyons comment fonctionnent les secteurs de l’agriculture et de l’élevage; Premièrement, ils génèrent des propositions de «relance économique et de création d’emplois» qui ne reposent pas sur des investissements privés mais plutôt sur des allégements fiscaux, des subventions, des financements et des travaux publics d’infrastructure. Autrement dit, le transfert de ressources publiques vers des entreprises privées. Ensuite, après de nombreuses réunions avec des fonctionnaires et un lobbying intense, le gouvernement crée des initiatives, des plans et des programmes qui institutionnalisent les demandes des entreprises. Enfin, l’agro-industrie fait pression sur l’État pour qu’il rejette la nouvelle législation environnementale qui pourrait limiter ses projets d’expansion.

Mais après un an d’incendies de forêt qui ont détruit plus d’un demi-million d’hectares de zones humides et une pandémie, les organisations de la société civile ne permettront pas au lobby des entreprises d’être plus fort que le tollé populaire. Le réseau national des zones humides (Rouge Nacional de Humedales) a organisé une semaine de lutte du 14 au 21 novembre pour défendre les zones humides et promouvoir une pétition signée par plus de 600 000 personnes appelant à l’adoption d’une loi de protection des zones humides. Leur objectif est de préserver ces écosystèmes des intérêts corporatifs qui les détruiraient, pour le bien commun de la société.

1 https://www.pagina12.com.ar/280812-claudio-moroni-estamos-atravesando-la-peor-crisis-economica-
2 https://www.boletinoficial.gob.ar/web/utils/pdfView?file=%2Fpdf%2Faviso%2Fprimera%2F236002%2F20201014
3 La Bolsa de Cereales de Buenos Aires (BCBA) a estimé une récolte céréalière 2020-2021 de 120,8 millions de tonnes. https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202010/524850-agricultura-aprueba-iniciativa-alcanzar-200-millones-toneladas–granos-antes-2030.html
4 Si le gouvernement n’a pas expliqué comment le plan de production de 200 millions de tonnes de céréales sera articulé, l’Argentine a récemment autorisé le semis de blé génétiquement modifié résistant à la sécheresse (voir https://www.ecoportal.net/temas-especiales/transgenicos/trigo-hb4-transgencio/). Un accord a également été signé avec la Fondation Bill Gates (le Plan AgTech) pour mettre en œuvre une agriculture de précision par la digitalisation (voir http://biodiversidadla.org/Documentos/El-socio-menos-pensado-Bill-Gates-desembarca-en-el-sistema-agroalimentario-argentino).
5 https://www.ambito.com/agronegocios/granos/el-gobierno-impulso-una-iniciativa-producir-200-millones-toneladas-anuales-antes-2030-n5140217
6 https://bcrnews.com.ar/ganaderia/cuanto-maiz-se-destina-a-la-alimentacion-animal-en-argentina/
7 http://agrovoz.lavoz.com.ar/actualidad/casi-mitad-de-harina-de-soja-que-se-exporta-en-mundo-es-argentina

8 Benzaquen, L., et al. (éds.), Regiones de Humedales de la Argentina. Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, Fundación Humedales / Wetlands International, Universidad Nacional de San Martín et Universidad de Buenos Aires: 2017.
9 Di Giacomo, A. S. (éd.), «Áreas importantes para la conservación de las aves en Argentina. Sitios Prioritarios para la conservación de la biodiversidad », Temas de Naturaleza y Conservación 5: 1-514, Birdlife International, Buenos Aires: 2017.
dix https://www.lanacion.com.ar/economia/campo/bajos-submeridionales-buscan-reactivar-produccion-3-millones-nid2332481

11 http://bcch.org.ar/BCCH/web/bundles/BCCH/PDF/Agronegocios/bf6f7ef6ebd899ece581e5f75241f67a0551c457.pdf
12 https://www.telam.com.ar/notas/202008/498483-alberto-fernandez-y-el-consejo-agroindustrial-analizaron-plan-para-aumentar-las-exportaciones.html
13 https://www.lanacion.com.ar/economia/campo/ceea-nid2487724; https://www.greenpeace.org/argentina/story/issues/bosques/greenpeace-la-sociedad-rural-presiona-para-que-no-haya-castigo-a-quienes-provocan-incendios-y-desmontes/; et https://www.infocampo.com.ar/si-la-ley-de-humedales-no-se-encara-bien-podriamos-sacar-de-la-produccion-una-enorme-cantidad-de-hectareas/
14 https://www.infobae.com/campo/2020/09/27/ley-de-humedales-de-que-se-trata-y-que-piensan-el-campo-y-los-ambientalistas/


Élevage et privilèges au Paraguay: destruction et injustice

par Miguel Lovera, Iniciativa Amotocodie, Paraguay

Superficie brûlée pour défricher des terres pour l’élevage de bétail dans le Chaco paraguayen. Simone Lovera

L’élevage, en particulier l’élevage de bétail, est l’une des activités économiques les mieux établies au Paraguay. Selon la figure coloniale Ruy Díaz de Guzmán, les premiers bovins ont été introduits au milieu du 16e siècle. Aujourd’hui, il existe une relation de longue date, tendue et injuste entre la population humaine du Paraguay et son bétail, vénérée par les élites féodales installées pendant le colonialisme et dont les héritiers continuent d’exercer une influence forte et rétrograde sur l’économie nationale.1

Le cheptel bovin national est passé de 7 millions en 2007 à environ 14 millions aujourd’hui, faisant du Paraguay le neuvième exportateur mondial de viande bovine.2 Au cours des 20 dernières années, des investissements accrus ont accompagné l’introduction de nouvelles races et de nouveaux gènes dans le cheptel créole,3 et les exportations de bœuf sont passées de 27000 tonnes en 1994 à 249000 tonnes en 2019.4 En termes de valeur monétaire, il s’agit d’une augmentation de 55 millions de dollars d’exportations annuelles à 1,2 milliard de dollars.5

Ces «réalisations» ont été rendues possibles grâce à un système de privilèges et de subventions pour le secteur de l’élevage. Cela a commencé avec la cause sous-jacente de la catastrophe environnementale dans le pays, qui est la tradition archaïque selon laquelle pour «être quelqu’un» dans un endroit comme le Paraguay, il faut posséder (au moins) une grande ferme. Ainsi, le parti Colorado, au pouvoir pendant 162 des 209 années d’indépendance du pays, a distribué au moins 20 millions d’hectares de terres publiques à son réseau clientéliste, de sorte que 90% des terres ont été privatisées et 80% ont été placées dans le mains de 2% de la population.6 C’était la subvention de fondation accordée au secteur de l’élevage du pays.

Le Parti du Colorado a servi de lien principal entre le secteur de l’élevage et la classe politique, et nombre de ses politiciens, fonctionnaires et parlementaires possèdent actuellement des ranchs de bétail. Ainsi, les activités d’élevage restent entre les mains d’un secteur qui conserve ses privilèges dans le temps. Cette structure économique et sociopolitique continue de former la base de la production de viande bovine destinée à l’exportation. Ces derniers mois, il a été révélé qu’un sénateur paraguayen influent dont la famille a des liens avec le parti du Colorado – bien qu’il en représente un autre – a obtenu une ferme qui occupe des terres protégées dans le cadre du plus ancien parc national du pays.7 par une combinaison d’influence politique et de corruption de fonctionnaires. Ce cas est l’un des nombreux exemples d’usurpation de terres publiques au Paraguay.

Les subventions et privilèges dont bénéficient les élites de l’élevage bovin ne s’arrêtent pas là. La loi paraguayenne garantit au secteur de l’élevage un accès bon marché à la main-d’œuvre nationale en lui accordant un salaire minimum «minimisé» de 129 dollars par mois pour les employés des exploitations jusqu’à 4 000 têtes de bétail et de 178 dollars par mois pour les exploitations de plus que cela, tandis que le Le salaire minimum «normal» est plus du double de celui de 364 $ par mois.8

Pendant ce temps, les taxes sur l’élevage sont négligeables. Par exemple, le Impuesto a las Rentas de las Actividades Agropecuarias (IRAGRO), le seul impôt direct sur les activités agricoles, est calculé par les entreprises elles-mêmes dans une «déclaration sous serment» rarement examinée par un agent du Trésor, car il n’y a que 100 agents pour plus de 200 000 exploitations. La majorité d’entre eux sont petits, mais les grands représentent 90% de la superficie totale utilisée pour l’élevage. Le reste des habitants du pays, quant à lui, n’a pas de privilèges et doit contribuer au taux plein, principalement par le biais de la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée (TVA) sur les transactions commerciales nationales, qui représente 65% de l’assiette fiscale nationale.

Une autre taxe qui constituerait normalement une part importante du capital productif est la taxe foncière. Au Paraguay, cela ne représente que 1% de la valeur fiscale des propriétés rurales, soit à peine 6 à 7 millions de dollars par an de revenus, bien que cela s’applique à une superficie de 20 millions d’hectares. Du fait de cette situation, les trois principaux impôts payés par le secteur agricole du pays – l’IRAGRO, la taxe foncière et la TVA – ne représentent que 67 millions de dollars, soit 2,8% du total des recettes fiscales nationales les bonnes années, tandis que le secteur compte pour 27% du PIB.9

L’industrie bovine et les exportations qui y sont liées ne sont pas seulement le résultat des «efforts» locaux. Ils bénéficient également du soutien du Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement et des mécanismes financiers internationaux, tant privés que publics. Par exemple, le Fonds pour l’environnement mondial soutient l’expansion de l’élevage dans le Chaco paraguayen, une région avec l’un des taux de déforestation les plus élevés au monde. Ce soutien consiste à écologiser l’image de l’industrie en l’incluant dans son portefeuille en tant qu ’« activité durable ».dix En outre, un article de la Société financière internationale de 2019 avec le titre évocateur de « Renforcer l’industrie de la viande du Paraguay »11 détaille les multiples contributions publiques, privées, étrangères et nationales qui ont été apportées au financement de l’augmentation de la productivité des fermes d’élevage afin de stopper la déforestation. Cependant, il a en fait été démontré que cela avait l’effet inverse; l’augmentation de la productivité s’est accompagnée d’une déforestation accrue dans le Chaco et dans le reste du Paraguay.

Ainsi, le Paraguay apporte son sol, son eau et sa main-d’œuvre tandis que les investisseurs étrangers exportent le produit le plus convoité de ce sol: le bœuf. Environ 60 à 70% des exportations de viande bovine sont effectuées par des entreprises brésiliennes qui ne paient pas de taxes à l’exportation.12 Le Paraguay fait donc partie d’un groupe restreint de «paradis fiscaux» où de l’argent d’origine douteuse peut être blanchi. Pendant ce temps, le reste du pays – et en particulier les plus vulnérables – assument les coûts sociaux, économiques et environnementaux élevés, accumulant une dette à payer par les générations présentes et futures, et dont les droits sont refusés afin de subventionner les privilèges d’une ancienne classe féodale.

1 Miguel Lovera, «La Dimensión Ganadera de los Agronegocios: Negocio insustentable que mantiene la inégidad», In Marielle Palau, Con la soja al cuello 2015. Informe sobre Agronegocios en Paraguay, BASE-IS Asunción, 2015.
2 Chiffres de l’USDA, Élevage et volaille: marchés et commerce mondiaux, 2020.
https://apps.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/circulars/livestock_poultry.pdf
3 L. Arce, La industria Cárnica en el Paraguay. Observatorio de Economía Internacional, Asunción, 2012.
4 https://www.datamarnews.com/noticias/mercosur-registers-exceptional-beef-exports-in-2019/
5 Chiffres calculés sur la base des données de la Commission du boeuf de l’Association rurale du Paraguay.
6 Miguel Lovera, «Transgénicos en la agricultura: una imposición motivada ideológicamente», Espacio Orgánico, Asunción, 2014.
7 https://www.abc.com.py/nacionales/2020/10/26/denuncian-al-senador-fidel-zavala-por-la-usurpacion-y-venta-ilegal-de-una-parte-del- parque-nacional-ybycui /

8 https://portal.ips.gov.py/sistemas/ipsportal/contenido.php?c=130
9 Chiffres pour 2019 calculés sur la base des données du Secretaría de Estado de Tribiutación de la República del Paraguay (Secrétariat d’État à la fiscalité de la République du Paraguay).
10 «Lanzamiento de la Plataforma Nacional de Carne Sustentable», 25 novembre 2020. https://greencommoditiesparaguay.org/lanzamiento-de-la-plataforma-nacional-de-carne-sustentable/
11 https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/news_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/news+and+events/news/paraguay+meat+industry
12 Miguel Lovera, «La Dimensión Ganadera de los Agronegocios: La ganadería en el contexto del« Nuevo Rumbo »». À Marielle Palau, Con la soja al cuello 2016. Informe sobre Agronegocios en Paraguay, BASE-IS Asunción, 2016.


Chaîne d’approvisionnement agro-industrielle non durable du Brésil et incitations perverses contre les forêts et les droits de l’homme

Par Carolina Alves, Plataforma Socioambiental, Brésil; et Letícia Tura et Maureen Santos, FASE, Brésil

Un éleveur dans une zone dévastée par un incendie dans la région du Pantanal. João Paulo Guimarães

La chaîne d’approvisionnement de la production industrielle de viande du Brésil va bien au-delà de l’élevage, de l’abattage et de la transformation des animaux. Il comprend également le secteur du soja, où 90% de la production est utilisée dans l’alimentation animale. La production brésilienne de soja a augmenté de plus de 140% au cours des 20 dernières années, et pendant plus d’une décennie, FASE a mené des études1 révélant à quel point le secteur de l’élevage agro-industriel est insoutenable.

Le Brésil compte 215 millions de vaches, le deuxième plus grand troupeau du monde et plus que la population humaine du Brésil. L’élevage de bétail occupe plus de terres que toute autre activité économique et, ensemble, l’élevage et la production agricole en occupent au total 350.2 million hectares.2 Brazil is also the largest exporter of soy in the world, with agricultural commodities accounting for 46% of the value of Brazilian exports, the vast majority of which go to Asia. In addition, Brazilian companies account for a significant part of the global beef market, and the country is the 3rd largest producer of milk in the world.3

The growth of the sector is underpinned by public and private, national and international investments, and its economic scale is matched by the scale of the socio-environmental problems it causes. The national agricultural and livestock policy (Plano Safra) includes a series of government programs that involve strong support for livestock production. Most of these programs claim to promote sustainable livestock farming, such as the Low Carbon Agriculture Plan and the National Policy for Crop-Livestock-Forest Integration, but the reality is far different.

In a recent report, the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, APIB)4 in partnership with Amazon Watch showed the links between major international financial institutions and the production and export of commodities involved in conflicts on Indigenous lands, deforestation, land grabbing and the weakening of environmental protections. According to the report, the record 120-million-ton soybean harvest over 2019-20 was only possible thanks to an increase in deforestation and violations of social and environmental rights.

The soy sector’s production model is based on large monocultures, and transnational corporations dominate all aspects of the supply chain. Combined with the relentless expansion of cattle pastures into the Amazon and the Cerrado, these activities are the main vectors of environmental destruction in the country, causing deforestation, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. This destruction has profound impacts on the territorial rights of Indigenous Peoples and traditional and peasant communities and on food sovereignty in the countryside and cities.

Livestock farming is one of the main drivers of deforestation in the country, and the sector’s four largest meatpacking companies—JBS, Marfrig, Minerva and BRF—have frequently been accused of buying cattle from ranchers that have been fined for illegal deforestation.5 In recent years, Brazil has had alarming rates of deforestation, and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE)6 reports that 11,000 km2 of forest was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2019 and July 2020.

In addition to economic power, agribusiness has great political power too. One of the main ways that political influence is exerted is through the Parliamentary Agriculture and Livestock Front (FPA), also known as the bancada rural. The FPA has 39 senators and 245 federal deputies among its members. It operates in the Federal Congress and also has influence in State Legislative Assemblies and Municipal Chambers. According to a report by De Olho nos Ruralistas, the main organization monitoring the bancada’s actions,7 it is financed by Brazil’s banking sector, including Banco do Brasil, Santander and Itaú BBA, and by 22 of the 50 largest agribusiness and livestock companies in Brazil, including Bayer, Basf, Syngenta, Bunge, Cargill, BRF, SEARA, Aurora, JBS and Ceratti.

Despite Brazil’s ongoing environmental calamity and international pressure on the Bolsonaro government led by European Union member states concerned about the possible impacts of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement, state and private support for the livestock and feedstock sectors continues to grow. According to data released for 2020-21, the federal government intends to invest 39 billion Euros in the sector, representing 6% growth compared to 2019, with much of the resources coming from public banks such as BNDES.8 Of this total, 200 million Euros will be allocated as grants to subsidize the costs of insurance. Other forms of state support include investments in research and new technologies and pro-industry legislative changes.

So-called green financing is also gaining popularity quickly. Brazil is a leader in the issuance of green bonds in Latin America, with US$5.13 billion issued since 2014, and the agriculture and livestock sectors are considered the main markets for these “green” investments. This trend is being supported by new policies that facilitate market access for international investors and that indirectly finance the industry’s expansion.

The Brazilian economy is now in crisis due to the pandemic and the government’s lack of an economic strategy, and severe fires in the Amazon, Cerrado and Pantanal have also caused investors to be more cautious. However, Brazil remains fertile ground for investments in agribusiness. According to the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), the country’s low interest rate is another big incentive for investors and, coupled with the devaluation of the currency, investments are now cheaper and there is more competition between investors. In addition, Chinese meat imports from Brazil had increased by 65.8% this year as of August 2020,9 partially alleviating economic challenges.

While the state continues to guarantee support for agribusiness, resources for essential services such as for family farming—which produces most of the food consumed in the country—are being undermined and hit hard by the pandemic. Recently, the federal government vetoed a law for an emergency plan for family farming and also tried to veto the emergency plan for Indigenous Peoples. Their argument that there was a lack of funds to support these measures clearly demonstrated that their political allegiances lie with the interests of profit rather than the people.

1 See https://fase.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Onde-pastar.pdf; https://fase.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Livro-Cadeia-Industrial-da-carne.pdf; https://fase.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/brazil-case-study-PT.pdf; et https://fase.org.br/pt/acervo/documentos/a-luta-camponesa-construindo-transicao-agroecologica-no-mato-grosso-resistencia-ao-modelo-hegemonico-da-pecuaria-industrial/
2 https://censos.ibge.gov.br/agro/2017/resultados-censo-agro-2017.html; https://www.canalrural.com.br/noticias/area-ocupada-por-agricultura-cresceu-5-desde-2006-aponta-ibge/
3 https://agronewsbrazil.com.br/brasil-e-o-3o-maior-produtor-de-leite-do-mundo-superando-o-padrao-europeu-em-alguns-municipios/
4 http://apib.info/files/2019/05/Cumplicidade_Na_Destrui%C3%A7%C3%A3o.pdf

5 https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2020/07/18/omissao-do-bndes-faz-jbs-comprar-gado-de-desmatamento-da-amazonia-diz-anistia/ et https://reporterbrasil.org.br/2020/09/bb-e-bndes-sao-os-bancos-que-mais-financiam-setores-que-desmatam-mostra-estudo-internacional/
6 http://www.inpe.br/noticias/noticia.php?Cod_Noticia=5615
7 https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/

8 BNDES. Estatísticas Operacionais do Sistema BNDES. 2020. https://www.bndes.gov.br/wps/portal/site/home/transparencia/estatisticas-desempenho
9 https://www.moneytimes.com.br/exportacao-de-carne-do-brasil-aumenta-12-no-ano-ate-agosto-china-compra-658-mais/


The livestock sector in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo: Corruption, poor governance and a brutal disregard for human rights

By John Ciza, FCPEEP, DRC

Cattle farming in South Kivu. FCPEEP

The Democratic Republic of Congo is endowed with a variety of ecosystems and natural habitats possessing an exceptional biological diversity, making it one of the ten mega-biodiverse countries in the world.

With a forest cover of over 155 million hectares, DRC represents about 10% of the world’s forests and more than 47% of those in Africa.1 However, this biodiversity is seriously threatened by intense demand for fertile land, where forest concessions are being awarded for agro-pastoral purposes.

The demand for and production of animal products is increasing rapidly in DRC due to population growth and changes in lifestyle and diet. Unsustainable livestock farming, both large and small-scale and carried out by businesses as well as individual farmers, is therefore contributing to the destruction of forests and biodiversity and air, water and soil pollution.2

Like in many places, the livestock sector is socially and politically very important in DRC and ensures the survival of many rural populations as a considerable source of livelihood. Increasingly, however, large-scale production for sale in urban areas is being prioritized over small-scale production for consumption in the local area and surrounding communities. At the same time, forest-dependent peoples and marginalized groups such as women are being exploited, abused and deprived of their fundamental rights. This is especially the case in the territories of Mwenga, Kabare and Kalehe in the province of South Kivu,3 which is the focus of this article.

Some villages in Mwenga, Kabare and Kalehe have lost large areas of forests due to livestock farming, in large part due to changes in land use related to the production of fodder crops, where trees are felled and the land is burned to turn it into arable land.4 This has resulted in the invasion of protected areas such as the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the Itombwe Nature Reserve and other areas of community forests by herders looking for new land. This generates sometimes deadly conflicts between pastoralists, managers of protected areas and forest-dependent communities.5

In addition to the pressure on the environment in South Kivu, livestock farming has accentuated the misery of forest-dependent peoples and local communities who find themselves dispossessed of their lands and forests. Although some of the farming practices of local communities are also part of the problem, those most responsible are the large companies. Several villages find themselves invaded by investors, company shareholders, politicians and influential business people. Under the protection of customary chiefs and local politicians, they use their political and financial influence to gain access to land and natural resources in many forest areas, and they benefit directly from poor governance and weak regulation.

Women are also routinely exploited within the livestock industry. They are considered cheap labor and paid meager wages for their roles, which include transporting fodder, sweeping sheds, drawing water, feeding livestock and washing utensils used to store milk. They are also at risk of sexual harassment by the managers and owners of farms.6 Women are further marginalized because they face rigid customs that deny them their rights to own and inherit land, and to work with decent conditions and fair pay. In several communities, Congolese women are considered to be second-class citizens, making it especially hard for them to defend their rights or their forests.

In general, those responsible for the expansion of livestock farming in DRC are influential businessmen, some of whom are serving or retired politicians that are also direct shareholders in agro-pastoral businesses, or have family members that are. With the financial resources at their disposal, these business owners are able to easily influence decision-makers in order to carry out political and administrative acts in their favor. These include granting subsidies and other financial incentives such as tax breaks.

In Mwenga, Kabare and Kalehe, there are numerous examples of companies directly benefiting from their close links to decision-makers. Company A,7 for example, is active in the agro-pastoral and mining sectors and belongs to an influential businessman who is partnered with the Congolese state. Company B is another agro-pastoral business owned by a current national deputy who sits on the Environment and Natural Resources Commission within the DRC National Assembly. Company C, also an agro-pastoral business, belongs to a former government minister and DRC deputy. The political and financial influence that these companies exert over local leaders, state agents and political institutions facilitates their acquisition of land and access to a wide range of state services and supports.

Agro-pastoral activities take place in DRC in a context of faltering governance and brutal disregard for human rights. Marginalized groups are not able to assert their rights against livestock companies in their territories because corruption, nepotism, impunity and clientelism ensure that the justice system is not independent, and that the owners of these companies are protected by members of the government who have an interest in supporting and protecting their interests.

Some laws also favor the dispossession of the lands of local communities by agro-pastoral companies by granting land and forest concessions. This is the case with the law that makes the Congolese state the sole and inalienable owner of the soil and the subsoil,8 where individuals are simple users and/or tenants, and community lands are not recognized. There is therefore an urgent need for land reform in the DRC to reflect the current economic, environmental and social realities, and to recognize the customary rights of vulnerable and marginalized populations to occupy and use non-registered community lands.

The support offered to the livestock sector in the DRC is not extended to local farmers, but rather, is geared towards businesses with close links to influential politicians. This only increases the financial resources and political influence they wield and reinforces poor governance in the region, pushing livestock farming away from the more sustainable, productive and resilient systems that are urgently needed.

Mining: another driver of forest loss and human rights abuses in DRC

There are many parallels between the mining and livestock sectors in DRC, and in fact, some of the agro-pastoral companies with close political links are also involved in mining. The mining sector is similarly divided into large and small-scales, with industrial and artisanal mining often being in competition and conflict with each other.9 Both have negative impacts involving the loss of forests and violation of the rights of forest-dependent peoples, as well as impacts on women who are exploited for meager income. Most of the mining operations in Mwenga, Kalehe and Kabare are open-pit, leading to significant forest destruction, soil and landscape degradation and water pollution, as well as social impacts and health risks for surrounding communities. In South Kivu, mining companies are accused of expropriating the lands of rural communities. They use their influence over the political and administrative authorities, customary chiefs, local leaders or armed groups to obtain operating permits without the free prior and informed consent of local communities. Despite DRC’s wealth in natural resources, their exploitation fails to contribute to improving the living conditions of its population. This is a consequence of the bad governance that punctuates politics and the influence that companies have over political decision-makers.

1 Ministère de l’environnement, conservation de la nature et développement durable de la RDC. 2016. Stratégie et plan d’action nationaux de la biodiversité (2016-2020), Kinshasa, p14, 15.
2
http://www.fao.org/livestock-environment/fr/
3 http://www.fao.org/ag/fr/magazine/0612sp1.htm
4 Information provided by the President of the Environmental Civil Society of South Kivu, interview held in Bukavu on 4 November 2020.

5 Information provided by a Tourism Officer at Kahuzi-Biega National Park, interview held at Tshivanga station, 2 November 2020.
6 Information provided by a managers at a cattle farm who is the president of the Bugorhe/Kabare cattle farmer’s group, interview held in Kashenyi on 5 November 2020.

7 The names of these companies have been deliberately hidden to protect the author, which is another indication of the potentially dangerous influence they wield.
8 Article 53 of Law no. 73/021 of July 20, 1973 on the general property regime, land and property regime and security rights regime as amended and supplemented by Law No. 80-008 of July 18, 1980.


Incentives for intensive animal agriculture clash with forest protection in Nepal

By Bhola Bhattarai and Roshan Chikanbanjar, National Forum for Advocacy (NAFAN), Nepal

Intensive livestock farming in Nepal. Roshan Chikanbanjar

Both industrial and small-scale livestock farming are driving factors of deforestation, carbon emissions, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss in Nepal, with open and uncontrolled grazing impacting forest conservation in particular.

Around a quarter of the population engages in animal agriculture practices,1 however, government support for livestock farming is driving intensification and the expansion of large farms and agribusiness while leaving small-scale farmers behind.

Although consumption is still relatively low per capita in Nepal, meat and dairy production has grown by more than 40% in the past ten years. While more than half of meat and dairy production is from buffalo, poultry production has seen by far the biggest increase of 260%, followed by an almost 70% increase in pork production.2 The size of livestock populations has increased at a slower rate over the same time, suggesting that intensification has been key to this increase and that, in the case of poultry production, factory farming rather than small-scale farming has driven the sharp increase.

Nepalese people are also consuming on average 40% more meat per capita than they were 20 years ago, although a rise in consumption is mostly associated with the increasing income of middle class families.3 At the same time, there is growing evidence that high consumption of red meat–especially of processed meat–could be associated with an increased risk of several major chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes,4 the incidence of which are all increasing in Nepal.

Religious practices are another driver of demand for livestock production in Nepal. Although beef generally isn’t consumed due to religious beliefs, many Hindus believe that animal sacrifice pleases their gods. This has significant impacts on animal rights and welfare, especially during festivals. For example, at the Gadhimai festival, a two-day festival that is held every five years and attracts thousands of Nepali and Indian devotees, thousands of animals are sacrificed most of which are buffalo. Animal rights organizations have been trying to stop this inhumane and cruel practice for many years, but despite a ban on the event, it is still highly popular.

There is a clear lack of policy alignment within Nepal’s government structures where numerous acts, directives and policies are promoting the expansion of animal agriculture5 whereas only a small number of policies aim to protect animal welfare.6 There is also a conflict between livestock-related policies and the highly-regarded Forest Act, which hands control over large areas of forest to communities. Whereas the Forest Act seeks to control grazing and the collection of fodder in forests for their protection, other policies and laws incentivize the use of forests for livestock farming activities and are a driver of forest degradation.

As well as policy support, the government of Nepal is promoting animal agriculture by providing subsidies and other incentives to farmers through a number of development projects. The Prime Minister Agriculture Modernization Project7 for example, has recently been expanded and prioritizes intensification and mechanization. It involves significantly subsidizing the purchase of tractors (where farmers require at least five hectares of arable land to be eligible), agricultural equipment and tools, seeds and fertilizers. Grants are also provided for the purchase of improved varieties of seeds and plants such as tea, coffee, cardamom and areca nuts, which are largely viewed as cash crops rather than for subsistence.

The costs of insurance are also subsidized by the government to cover risks to livestock farming such as disease and loss of market access. In 2013, the Insurance Board of Nepal released the Crop and Livestock Insurance Directives, where producers can receive a 75% subsidy on insurance costs.8 According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, payments towards insurance for livestock farming increased more than ten-fold between 2014 and 2017, from 4.15 to 55.23 million Euros.9

In general, these support mechanisms are geared towards larger and privately-owned farms. Small-holders and poor landless farmers cannot benefit from the support due to a lack of access to information about government programs, a lack of means to form companies and a lack of capital to cover costs that are only partially subsidized.

The discriminatory nature of Nepal’s subsidies and incentives for livestock production are a result of the fact that private business interests have influenced Nepal’s policy-making processes heavily. One government source, who did not wish to be named, claimed that most of the newly-registered agricultural companies that are benefiting from government subsidies have been established by political elites on the instruction of local elected leaders. There is a nexus between government and the private sector that is a form of institutionalized corruption and ensures that the huge sums of money allocated in agricultural subsidies are mostly paid to wealthy farmers and private companies with government connections. This also means that they remain out of the reach of poor and marginalized farmers.

1 Karki, Y. K., 2015. Nepal Protfolio Performance Review (NPPR). Kathmandu: Ministry of Agriculture Development (MOAD).
2 Poudel et al., 2020. Livestock and Poultry Production in Nepal and Current Status of Vaccine Development. Vaccines, 8, 322.
3 Ministry of Finance, 2017. Economic survey of Nepal 2073/74 BS (2016/17)
4 Wolk, A., 2017. Potential health hazards of eating red meat (Review). Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden J Intern Med 2017; 281: 106–122

5 Such as the Feedstock Act, 1976; National Dairy Development Board Act, 1991; Livestock Health and Livestock Service Act, 1998; National Agriculture promotion policy, 2006; Industrial policy, 2011; Pastureland policy, 2012; Livestock farming policy, 2012; Crop and Livestock Insurance Directives, 2013; Forest Policy, 2015; Crop and Livestock Insurance Directives (updated), 2017; and National Agroforestry policy, 2019.
6 Such as the Aquatic Animal Protection Act, 1960; Animal Welfare and Protection Act Nepal, 2011; Animal Welfare Directives, 2016
7
https://pmamp.gov.np/
8 Devkota, D., et al, 2020. Livestock insurance adoption in Nepal: lessons learned. Lalitpur: Nepal Agricultural Research Council.
9 MOALD, 2020. Statistical information on Nepalese Agriculture. Kathmandu: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MOALD).


How EU agribusiness frustrated the reform of the most perverse incentive of all: The Common Agricultural Policy

By Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, Belgium and Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay

Reforming the CAP could be an opportunity to dramatically reduce fertilizer and pesticide use. Bill Meier/Flickr

On 22 October 2020, less than three months before the completion of the first Strategic Plan (SP) of the Biodiversity Convention, the European Union’s Ministers and Parliament adopted a decision that will effectively undermine the EU’s new ambitions on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture: they voted not to fundamentally redirect one of the most perverse subsidy systems on the planet, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

In doing so, they ensured that billions in taxpayer money will continue to be spent on industrial agriculture, rather than on changing farming production methods for the better. The decision violated SP Aichi Target 3 on phasing out or reforming subsidies and other perverse incentives that harm biodiversity, as well as the Von der Leyen Commission’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, which include a 50% pesticide use reduction target.

No less than one third of the entire EU budget is spent on the CAP. The ‘new’ revised CAP would allow 391.4 billion Euros1 to be spent between 2021 and 2027 on subsidies, primarily for large-scale and conventional agro-industrial livestock and crop production. This will have devastating impacts on forests and other ecosystems, both inside and outside Europe. The new scheme will continue to subsidize an agricultural system that has been responsible for dramatic species loss in and around European agricultural landscapes. For example, BirdLife International estimates that Europe has lost 57% of its farmland birds due to the farming model the CAP supports.

Moreover, by heavily subsidizing the conventional agricultural use of land, the CAP forms a major obstacle to initiatives that promote setting aside land for natural forest and other ecosystem restoration. The OECD has pointed out that any system that subsidizes conventional agriculture over alternative uses of land damages biodiversity.2 The nitrogen depositions by the livestock industry and the agrochemicals used in agro-industrial crop and livestock farming greatly harm the quality of European forests and other ecosystems, too. Moreover, by subsidizing an intensive livestock industry that imports large amounts of genetically modified soy from South America, the CAP is a key driver of soy expansion and related deforestation in countries like Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay (see pages 8, 12 and 10).

The dramatic environmental impacts of the CAP are matched by its dramatic social impacts: between 2005 and the 2016, ten million people lost their jobs in the EU regular agricultural labor force. Literally millions of small farms were forced out of business during the past 40 years of subsidized EU agriculture. In the Netherlands alone, which is the world’s second largest agricultural exporter in terms of the value of exports, an average of 15 farms per day went bankrupt or out of production between 1950 and 2014.3 Between 2003 and 2013, one out of four farms disappeared in the EU,4 causing significant hardship to an estimated four million families.

This tragedy is explained by the liberalization of agricultural markets (such as sugar and milk) on the one hand and, on the other hand, continuing to hand out subsidies by hectare. This resulted in a situation where larger farmers and landowners have profited most from CAP subsidies. An estimated 80% of all subsidies handed out end up with the largest 20% of producers in the EU.5

For large agro-industrial corporations, the CAP result has so far been a big win. They see the CAP as a key tool for watering down the far more ambitious environmental commitments made by the current EU Commission that would directly affect their profits, including the 2020 Farm to Fork Strategy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Green Deal. These included 50% reduction targets for pesticides and antimicrobials and a 20% reduction target for synthetic fertilizers. With the CAP money not being redirected to meet these targets, they have become a lot more difficult to reach.

These large agro-industrial producers and other corporate actors continue to dominate EU policy-making in the field of agriculture. As described in a new report by Corporate Europe Observatory,6 Copa-Cogeca, a twin organization representing farmers and farmer’s cooperatives including dairy giant FrieslandCampina and the Rabobank, has a disproportionate influence on the EU Directorate General for Agriculture and overall agricultural decision-making in the EU. The EU Council president traditionally grants a private audience to Copa-Cogeca prior to meetings of the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers so that it can make its views heard. In the crucial September 2020 Agricultural Council meeting, it was even given the opportunity to address all the agricultural ministers gathered.

Copa-Cogeca, allied organizations like the lobby group of big landowners ELO, and the wider food industry also dominate the so-called Civil Dialogue Groups that serve to provide the European Commission with advice on new policy and legislation, including on the CAP. They occupy 68.4% of the seats in the arable crops group and 73.6% in the milk group. In 2019, Copa-Cogeca chaired eight out of 13 of these groups.

Meanwhile, the pesticide lobby group Croplife, along with BASF, tried to undermine the Farm to Fork pesticide reduction target by setting up a closed roundtable discussion in June 2020 to discuss their concerns with the agriculture commissioner.

In some cases, such as that of the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, large agro-industrial interests and the government are even represented by one and the same person. This evident conflict of interest has led Babis to be subject to investigations by the EU’s anti-fraud office. Babis owns several large agro-industrial enterprises that, in 2018, benefited from 42 million Euros in CAP subsidies distributed by his own government.7 Needless to say, the Czech government has favored the continuation of the CAP without major reform, as well as greater flexibility for national governments to determine the allocation of agricultural subsidies and whether or not to establish an upper limit on them.

The CAP will fatally undermine the recently adopted EU Green Deal. It will clearly contradict the new EU Biodiversity Strategy, which was ironically adopted in the very same “Green Week” in which the new CAP was adopted. Seldom has there been a clearer example of fragmented and incoherent policy-making in the field of biodiversity. The current EU Commission, which has invested so much time and credibility into its Green Deal and more climate and biodiversity-friendly EU policies in general, should either withdraw its CAP proposal or find other ways to force member states to implement green objectives in the way CAP money is spent. If it fails to do so, the EU will enter next year’s negotiations on the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy with a sense of legitimacy as small as its CAP scheme is large.

1 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_20_985
2 https://www.oecd.org/env/resources/19819811.pdf

3 https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/achtergrond/2014/26/afname-aantal-boerenbedrijven-zet-door
4 https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7089766/5-26112015-AP-EN.pdf/e18e5577-c2a4-4c70-a8c7-fd758ea7b726
5 https://www.arc2020.eu/agriculture-atlas-tied-to-the-land/
6 See https://corporateeurope.org/en/2020/10/cap-vs-farm-fork

7 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/11/world/europe/eu-farm-subsidy-lobbying.html


Portucel Moçambique: Your profit is not our development!

By Vanessa Cabanelas, Justiça Ambiental, Mozambique

Portucel’s eucalyptus plantations in Mozambique. Justiça Ambiental

Portucel Moçambique was formed in April 2009 by The Navigator Company (formerly the Portucel Soporcel Group, a Portuguese pulp and paper company, see page 27), and in the same year, the Mozambican government granted it the right to plant eucalyptus on 173,000 hectares in the province of Zambézia. In 2011, it was granted another 183,000 hectares in the nearby province of Manica.

The plantations are being established to turn into wood chips for export to The Navigator Company’s pulp mills in Portugal, and later to supply a pulp mill that they plan to construct in Mozambique. This is falsely promoted as both a development project to improve the living conditions of rural communities and as a reforestation project to mitigate the impacts of climate change. So far, Portucel has only planted 13,500 hectares, but this has already caused substantial negative impacts on communities.

Portucel’s project is viewed as an important investment for the Mozambican government and fits the country’s development model whereby large foreign investors are supported to extract the country’s natural wealth at the expense of its people. Portucel has also benefited substantially from international development and climate finance. In December 2014, the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group) acquired around 20% of Portucel’s shares,1 and in 2016, the Forest Investment Program (one of the Climate Investment Funds also under the remit of the World Bank) provided finance to support the planting of the first 40,000 hectares.2

“When eucalyptus arrived here, it destroyed us. Before it came, we didn’t suffer from hunger, we had access to firewood, we had no water problem or any issue getting straw to cover our houses…. Today, we have nowhere to produce; most of our fields have already gone to Portucel.” Member of the Mutaliua Community, Namarroi District, Zambézia Province.

In 2016, Justiça Ambiental (JA) published “Portucel: The Process of Access to Land and the Rights of Local Communities”,3 a report based on fieldwork carried out since 2011; including interviews and visits to several communities affected by the project. It described the widespread despair of these poor, rural communities and documented how most of the affected groups feel deceived by the promises of a better life and employment and the construction of schools and wells that never materialized.

Land belongs to the state in Mozambique, and the state grants the right to use and benefit from land to both individuals and companies. The law does provide for the protection of customary land rights for local communities, though communities are generally not aware of this. Article 13 of Mozambique’s Land Law No. 19/97 establishes that “The process of granting the right to use and benefit from land includes consultation with local administrative authorities, preceded by consultations with the respective communities, for the purpose of confirming that the area is free from other uses and has no occupants”.

Contrary to Portucel’s claim that only marginal, abandoned or low-yielding land is used, the land granted to Portucel is already occupied, whether by native forest and savannas, or by fertile land used for food production by approximately 13,000 families in Zambezia and 11,000 families in Manica. These 24,000 families directly depend on peasant family farming for their livelihoods, and plantation expansion is in direct competition with their ability to feed themselves.

“We did not give up our land freely. We were taken by surprise when the machines dug up the fields.” Member of the Mutaliua Community, Namarroi District, Zambézia Province.

Portucel claims to have carried out a very broad, participatory consultation process, after which the communities consulted willingly gave up their land for the plantations. Although community consultations are a requirement in Mozambique, they serve as a mere formality. They take advantage of the fact that the vast majority of rural communities are unaware of their rights, their role in the community consultation process, or even that they have a choice and can refuse to give up their land.

The communities Portucel consulted also had no idea what it would be like to live completely surrounded by hectares and hectares of eucalyptus, since important information relating to the company’s plans was deliberately hidden from them. This included the total area to be planted, the potential social and environmental impacts, which roads and paths would be improved and what the jobs would involve.

“They made us many promises, but we haven’t seen anything yet! …. Now that they have taken our fields, they have forgotten about the issue of bridges, schools and wells. We were in a meeting, the communities of Harela, Nalelo, Mucuna and Mutaliua, with Portucel, and we demanded that the promises be fulfilled, but the Portucel representative said that bridges, hospitals and roads are the responsibility of the government.” Member of the Community of Harela, Ile District, Zambezia Province.

It was undoubtedly the promise of jobs and a better life that initially led the communities to accept the project. However, today, these same communities realize that Portucel’s strategy was to deceive them with false promises that took advantage of their poverty and vulnerable land tenure situation. According to the communities, of the thousands of jobs promised, very few have been created. Those that have been created are seasonal and very poorly paid and do not even cover the value of what farmers once produced on the land that they gave up. A visit to the area shows that very little of what was promised has been fulfilled, and it is shocking to hear testimony after testimony of the injustices being suffered.

Despite a large number of complaints being submitted to the various levels of government, from local chiefs to the President of the Republic, nothing has changed. In many cases, communities haven’t even received a response to their appeals, letters and petitions.

Numerous barriers are also put in the way of civil society organizations that work with communities in order to create distrust and fear. They are accused by government representatives of working for external interests, being against the country’s development and even being insurgents, a reference to the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the northernmost region of the country.

It is also extremely difficult to access information that by law should be made publicly available. JA has repeatedly requested copies of the legal processes for obtaining land rights and copies of environmental and social monitoring reports submitted by Portucel to government ministries. Despite presenting themselves as an honest and transparent company and the state being obliged by law to disclose these documents, JA had to take the Ministry of Land and Environment to the Administrative Court to obtain them.

“Nothing has changed in Hapala. We are crying because they took our land…. They promised a school, we don’t see it…. They promised a hospital, we don’t see it…. They promised jobs, we don’t see them…. We’re already getting nervous because nothing changes…. We don’t see the improved life we were promised.” Member of the Hapala Community, Ile District, Zambézia.

Despite these challenges, JA and other national organizations have supported the affected communities to amplify their demands and to assert their rights. As part of these efforts, they have hosted meetings where communities that are resisting the encroachment on their land and livelihoods can share their experiences. They have also hosted meetings between communities already in conflict with Portucel and those where planting has not yet begun so that they are more aware of what the real impacts on their lives will be and can make an informed choice on whether to give up their land.

To those who continue to believe in Portucel’s “fairy tales” about how its work improves the lives of those affected by the plantations, we recommend that you visit these communities yourself. Try touring the schools and health centers Portucel has built, strolling down the roads and paths it has improved and drinking the clean water from the wells the company has installed. The reality is quite different, as a resident explains:

“We were deceived. If we lend someone something and they don’t take good care of it and fulfill what was promised, it should be given back…. We want our land back.”

1 http://en.portucelmocambique.com/var/ezdemo_site/storage/original/application/485f8a78c5d3c71da8055572aa115483.pdf
2 https://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/sites/cif_enc/files/meeting-documents/mozambique_fip_investment_plan.pdf
3 https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Portucel_O_Processo_de_acesso_%C3%A0_Terra_e_os_direitos_das_comunidades_locais.pdf


The capture of policy-making by the pulp and paper industry is driving mega-fires in Portugal and land grabbing in Mozambique

by Oliver Munnion, Global Forest Coalition, Portugal

Burned eucalyptus trees after 2017 fires. Mrinalini Rai

The Navigator Company (formerly Portucel Soporcel) and owner of Portucel Moçambique is Europe’s biggest pulp and paper producer. The lobbying power of the company combined with a revolving door between the industry and Portuguese government has resulted in vast subsidies and financial support mechanisms and a dismantling of barriers to plantation expansion. As well as making Portugal the country with the highest proportion of eucalyptus plantations anywhere in the world, this is also driving plantation expansion in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, to devastating effect.

In their article “Portucel Moçambique: Your profit is not Our Development!” (see page 24), Justiça Ambiental describes how the company is riding roughshod over the rights and livelihoods of rural farming communities with its plans to plant over 300,000 ha of eucalyptus for its pulp and paper operations. A relic of Portugal’s brutal colonialist past is that Portuguese companies have privileged access to Mozambican markets, an incentive that encourages maximum profits for investors and minimum benefits to Mozambicans. The Navigator Company’s investments in Mozambique are therefore directly linked to how they have captured decision-making in Portugal, which ensures that strong subsidies and incentives keep their plantation model profitable.

In Portugal, perhaps the greatest impact that plantations have comes from their tendency to burn. Both pine and eucalyptus are extremely fire-prone, and vast areas of these single species plantations allow fires to be spread with great speed and intensity. 2017 saw the worst fire season in living memory in Portugal, where over half a million hectares of land burned and 115 people were killed, mostly during mega-fires in June and October.1 The pulp and paper industry has worked hard to deny any culpability for Portugal’s terrible fire problem, but if any good has come from the fires, it is that the role played by the industry in such wide-spread destruction is now at least widely acknowledged.

The pulp and paper industry in Portugal, led by The Navigator Company, exerts strong influence over decision-makers with its lobbying power, and numerous environmental public relations operations aim to turn public opinion in its favor by creating a “green” image and the illusion of sustainability. Decades of influence in successive Portuguese governments has paid dividends with the dismantling of forestry regulation and the unmitigated spread of eucalyptus plantations.2 According to forestry expert Paulo Pimenta de Castro, “…in the absence of the state, [the pulp and paper industry] manages the market for wood and the country at its leisure.”3

At the end of 2017, a report by Susana Coroado,4 vice-president of Transparency International in Portugal, provided valuable insight into the close links between the Navigator Company and the Portuguese government. In it, Susana described how Navigator’s president at the time, Pedro Queiróz Pereira, was the ninth richest man in Portugal and considered the 19th most powerful person in the country. Queiróz Pereira also financed political campaigns, and in the 2011 presidential elections donated the maximum amount allowed by law to the winning candidate.

Navigator’s lobbying tactics have also been heavy-handed when necessary. When the political party currently in government first came to power and promised to repeal a law that deregulated the expansion of eucalyptus plantations, pressure from the industry kept these plans firmly at the bottom of the priority list. As part of this pressure, the then president of Navigator threatened to end the company’s investment in Portugal completely, and suspended a 120 million Euro investment into one of its factories, threatening to relocate it elsewhere.5

Celpa, the association of pulp and paper producers in Portugal that represents Navigator and whose members control almost 200,000 ha of plantations, is also a lobbying force to be reckoned with. Recently, Celpa’s managing director, who was also Navigator’s Global Sales Director for 16 years, has been working hard to access up to 665 million Euros in funding for forests set out in the Program for Recovery and Resilience, an initiative responding to fire risk and the pandemic. He has called for a “balance” between forest conservation and production,6 promoting the myth that well-managed eucalyptus plantations reduce fire risk and ignoring the fact that forests devoted to biodiversity conservation account for just 4.5% of Portugal’s tree cover, compared to 26% for eucalyptus plantations.7

The Navigator Company is also one of 16 companies involved in the “Act4Nature Portugal” greenwashing initiative established by Portugal’s Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD). It is hoping to get its hands on 40 million Euros of government funding to pay landowners to “plant and manage forests”. Supposedly as a response to forest fires in Portugal, this funding looks set to finance the more profitable management of plantations rather than forest restoration.8

Coroado’s report also describes a revolving door between government and the pulp and paper industry. The current managing director of Agroges,9 an agricultural company whose main customers are pulp producers, first joined the Portuguese government as an adviser to the minister of agriculture. He left that role and took up a job with Agroges, only to later return to the government as secretary of state for rural development and, when his term ended, returned to Agroges as its director. In another example, a former Secretary of State for Forests who held the position until 2003 was also formerly a Portucel employee. In addition, no less than nine former government members have also worked for the Semapa conglomerate at one time or another, which owns 77% of The Navigator Company.dix

Following the fires of 2017, the Portuguese government approved several measures to ensure that such a tragedy could never be repeated again. Among these measures, it created a program for an “Integrated Management System for Rural Fires” and appointed Tiago Martins Oliveira as president who, for the previous 20 years, had worked for The Navigator Company. This wasn’t the first time that Oliveira had worked for Portugal’s current prime minister: in 2005 he was one of the technicians appointed to draw up the government’s forestry reform proposals.11

State subsidies and other public supports have incentivized eucalyptus planting with few regulatory barriers in the way of doing so. In 2017 alone, Portugal’s government made 18 million Euros available to increase the productivity of plantations, supplementing a 125 million Euro investment by Altri, a leading eucalyptus company.12 A further 9 million Euros came from the EU via a rural development program to support the replanting of eucalyptus where plantations had already been cut three times. These areas are also considered to be at high risk for fire.13 Portugal’s “Clean and Nourish Program” will also be investing 17 million Euros into companies represented by Celpa to help them manage eucalyptus plantations in the coming years.14

Tax breaks are another incentive, whether intended or not. At the end of 2019 the Portuguese government claims to have “forgotten” to impose a tax levied against pulp and paper producers which is a contribution towards the Permanent Forest Fund. The Fund was set up to plant slow-growing trees as part of efforts to regenerate the areas devastated by fires in 2017. In a clear indication that the government had no intention of collecting the tax retrospectively, the figure was left out of the 2020 budget altogether.15

International finance also plays a significant role, with the European Investment Bank (EIB) recently giving The Navigator Company 27.5 million Euros to replace a gas-fired generator with biomass boiler at their pulp mill in Figueira da Foz (which will also sell subsidized electricity to the grid) as part of the company’s aim to reach “net zero” emissions by 2035,16 and was the eighth time that EIB has financed the company in recent years.17 On top of this, The Navigator Company is heavily subsidized for selling electricity to Portugal’s grid, primarily through burning biomass, for which it receives millions of Euros each year.18

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the support received by The Navigator Company hasn’t filtered down into support for its own workforce in what has been an extremely challenging year for factory workers. The main union representing Navigator’s workforce claims that announcements made by the company about support for workers impacted by the pandemic are “pure fiction” and that all the company is trying to do is “silence its workers to ensure the uncontested distribution of 100 million Euros in dividends to its shareholders”.19

1 https://magazine.scienceforthepeople.org/geoengineering/fire-plantations-portugal/

2 “Portugal em Chamas – Como Resgatar as Florestas” https://www.bertrandeditora.pt/produtos/ficha/portugal-em-chamas-como-resgatar-as-florestas/21475947
3 https://www.publico.pt/2020/12/11/opiniao/opiniao/suicidio-celuloses-1942265
4 https://www.nexojornal.com.br/ensaio/2017/Inc%C3%AAndios-em-Portugal-quando-os-lobbies-matam
5 Ibid.
6 https://www.publico.pt/2020/11/29/economia/noticia/papeleiras-pedem-investimento-equilibrado-floresta-producao-conservacao-1941020
7 Tiago Monteiro-Henriques and Paulo. Fernandes, 2018. Regeneration of Native Forest Species in Mainland Portugal: Identifying Main Drivers. Forests, 9, 694
8 https://eco.sapo.pt/2020/09/25/so-17-empresas-portuguesa-estao-comprometidas-com-a-biodiversidade-governo-quer-mais/
9 https://www.agroges.pt/equipa-francisco-gomes-silva/

dix https://www.nexojornal.com.br/ensaio/2017/Inc%C3%AAndios-em-Portugal-quando-os-lobbies-matam
11 https://visao.sapo.pt/atualidade/politica/2017-10-26-quem-e-o-homem-escolhido-para-a-missao-de-acabar-com-o-flagelo-dos-incendios/
12 http://observador.pt/2017/01/16/governo-disponibiliza-18-milhoes-de-euros-para-melhorar-produtividade-na-plantacao-de-eucalipto/
13 https://www.publico.pt/2017/06/23/politica/noticia/governo-esta-a-financiar-renovacao-do-eucaliptal-em-zonas-como-a-de-pedrogao-1776653
14 https://www.publico.pt/2020/06/13/sociedade/noticia/programa-limpa-aduba-investe-17-milhoes-ate-2024-1920361
15 https://www.dn.pt/opiniao/opiniao-dn/daniel-deusdado/governo-esqueceu-se-do-novo-imposto-sobre-as-celuloses-leu-bem-11668014.html
16 https://www.publico.pt/2020/09/01/economia/noticia/bei-financia-275-milhoes-euros-nova-caldeira-biomassa-navigator-1929757
17 https://www.noticiasaominuto.com/economia/1557644/bei-financia-energia-limpa-da-navigator-com-27-5-milhoes
18 https://jornaleconomico.sapo.pt/noticias/the-navigator-company-produziu-em-2018-cerca-de-4-da-energia-eletrica-em-portugal-482026
19 https://www.noticiasdecoimbra.pt/sindicatos-dizem-que-ajudas-anunciadas-aos-trabalhadores-da-navigator-sao-pura-ficcao/


The corporate capture of climate policy and finance: driving investments in tree plantations and bioenergy instead of forest restoration

By Oliver Munnion, Global Forest Coalition, Portugal and Coraina de la Plaza, Global Forest Coalition, Spain

Charcoal produced from eucalyptus for the
iron and steel industry. Federica Giunta

In every crisis, capitalism sees an opportunity to profit.1 The corporate capture of climate finance is one of the more insidious versions of this, with the private sector jumping at the chance to access increasing amounts of public money being made available through different policies and funding mechanisms to tackle the climate emergency.

Such private sector engagement is actively promoted by the main climate funds themselves, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Climate Investment Funds and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which increasingly see themselves primarily as tools for leveraging private sector investment rather than as public investment funds. The GCF, for example, has a special private sector facility “to fund and mobilize private sector actors, including institutional investors, and leverage GCF’s funds to encourage corporates to co-invest with us”.2 Corporations are seen as both partners and co-investors, as well as beneficiaries of the GCF, which opens the door to a wide range of mutual financial dependencies and conflicts of interest.

Donor countries are the main drivers behind the privatization of climate finance. They have failed to produce the $100 billion per year they promised at the 2015 Climate Summit in Paris and are now trying to hide this lack of public investment behind a smoke screen of private investments. It is no wonder that the US, the EU and Japan are some of the main advocates of private sector engagement in climate finance and policy-making.3

Thanks to their efforts, corporations are more and more present during the climate negotiations. A walk around UNFCCC conference halls reveals the presence of numerous companies, international associations and private finance groups, including many companies whose interests are squarely opposed to solving the climate crisis. For instance, Shell’s CEO boasted about their influence in shaping Article 6 of the Paris Agreement,4 and the International Emissions Trading Association had a delegation of over 140 people at COP25 in Madrid including representatives from Shell and Chevron. It is therefore not surprising to see the corporate takeover advancing in the shape of public-private partnerships, equity agreements and numerous other opaque financing mechanisms.

Private sector investors are only interested in investments that are profitable to them, of course. This is why they are particularly interested in commercial tree plantations and bioenergy generation, two increasingly popular but false climate solutions that are actively promoted and incentivized by policy-makers, as other articles in this report show. Genuine climate solutions that address the root causes of the crisis, like drastic emissions reductions and ecosystem restoration, rarely provide opportunities for profit. On the other hand, plantations and bioenergy are commercial activities that do turn a profit when wood and electricity (and carbon credits) are sold. They therefore have the potential to pay back loans, make returns on investments and balance the books.

As described by Miguel Lovera on page 10 of this report, the close collaboration between climate funds such as the GEF and the private sector is also triggering support for other destructive sectors such as large-scale livestock farming. Initiatives such as the Good Growth Partnership work with businesses in Paraguay to “intensify [meat] production in a sustainable manner”,5 despite the fact that the sector is the main driver of forest loss in Paraguay and Latin America as a whole, as well as being a key cause of climate change, land grabbing, violations of Indigenous rights, animal suffering and noncommunicable health problems in humans like obesity and heart disease. Intensive livestock farming is also increasingly recognised as one of the most important causes of the emergence of dangerous new zoonotic diseases such as coronaviruses.6

The most worrying aspect of all the above is that it is just the tip of the iceberg. Virtually all aspects of international climate policy are moving towards private sector dependence and, as a consequence, finance is increasingly directed towards false solutions such as tree plantations and bioenergy. There is hard evidence of the harm this has already caused, but projects currently in the pipeline or that will result from recent government pledges dwarf those that have already been implemented in scale and impacts. Take the Bonn Challenge for example, a massive international effort to restore 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscape. So far, almost half of the pledged area is set to become commercial tree plantations.7

As the urgency of the climate crisis grows, so too does capitalism’s opportunism.

GEF and UNDP subsidies for charcoal production in Brazil

A pertinent example of private sector involvement in public climate finance is the GEF-funded and UNDP-implemented “Sustainable Iron and Steel” project that is taking place in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Two large Brazilian pig iron companies and two multinational steel producers with seriously poor track records are being directly subsidised to produce “sustainable” charcoal from eucalyptus plantations, which they use to produce iron and steel with. A recent investigation into the project8 argues that it is actually creating a perverse incentive for the expansion of highly damaging and conflict-ridden eucalyptus plantations, and at the same time failing to tackle emissions from the largest industrial sector carbon dioxide emitter in Brazil. What the project really aims to do is reduce the production costs of so-called “sustainable charcoal” so that the industry can create a cheap and steady supply of socially acceptable fuel that meets legislation and is eligible for carbon credits (which can offset the increased production costs).

GCF’s Arbaro Fund investment

Pitched as a private-sector project to sequester carbon in trees, the Arbaro Fund’s successful application to the GCF for $25 million in finance for the establishment of 75,000 ha of plantations is symbolic of the direction of things to come. Firstly, despite being called a private-sector project, most of the Arbaro Fund’s investors are public, and include the European Investment Bank, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) in addition to the GCF. Secondly, the Arbaro Fund is an investor itself, meaning that these public funds are two steps removed from the actual plantation projects that will result. Thirdly, Arbaro’s business plan hinges on selling the investments they themselves have made (using public climate finance) after 15 years and closing the Fund, at which point the equity9 provided by GCF will be paid back, with interest. This means that GCF has no influence over the actual plantations that are financed, and no say as to what happens to the wood after the Fund ceases to exist. However, these alarming governance issues and the science-backed fact that plantations offer little to no mitigation benefitsdix in comparison to alternatives like forest restoration, were not enough to dissuade the GCF from approving the proposal.

REDD+ as an incentive for polluting industries

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD+, is another scheme attracting increasing interest from the private sector. Although direct private sector REDD+ investments have been limited so far, they have incentivized this failed scheme through the purchase of carbon credits generated by REDD+ projects.11 Some of the most polluting companies on earth proudly point to REDD+ offsets as proof of their commitment to tackling climate change. Shell, for example, buys credits issued by the Mai-Ndombe REDD+ project in DRC (amongst others), which is failing to deliver, according to civil society research. The fact that some of the most polluting companies are offsetting their emissions instead of drastically reducing them by buying REDD+ credits—that have been paid for with public climate finance—makes REDD+ another perverse incentive for high emissions industries. This will probably be worsened in the short term given the hype around Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and the fact that increasingly the most popular type of carbon credits being purchased are are those generated by REDD+ projects linked to NBS.12

1 Klein, N. (2007). The shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism. Toronto: A.A. Knopf Canada.
2
https://www.greenclimate.fund/sites/default/files/document/green-climate-fund-s-private-sector-facility_0.pdf

3 See for example: https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/SubmissionsStaging/Documents/201810041701—AT-10-04-EU%20Submission%20on%20Strategies%20and%20Approaches.pdf et https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/SubmissionsStaging/Documents/201805041017—SUBMISSION%20FROM%20JAPAN%20-PRE-2020%20IMPLEMENTATION%20AND%20AMBITION-.PDF
4 https://theintercept.com/2018/12/08/shell-oil-executive-boasts-that-his-company-influenced-the-paris-agreement/
5 https://goodgrowthpartnership.com/our-work/

6 https://www.grain.org/en/article/6437-new-research-suggests-industrial-livestock-not-wet-markets-might-be-origin-of-covid-19
7 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01026-8

8 https://globalforestcoalition.org/brazil-charcoal-case-study/

9 Equity investments involve buying shares in a company and are therefore distinct from loans and grants.

10 For example, see https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01026-8

11 https://globalforestcoalition.org/15-years-of-redd/

12 https://www.forest-trends.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/SOVCM2019_web.pdf


Drax and the art of corporate capture: subsidizing the world’s largest biomass power station

By Frances Howe and Sally Clark, Biofuelwatch, UK

Projection onto Drax cooling towers. Extinction Rebellion North

As the UK’s prime minister commits to “building back greener”1 and supporting “clean energy”,2 you may wonder why the UK’s biggest polluter, Drax Power Station, receives over £2.1 million3 every day in renewable energy subsidies to burn millions of tonnes of wood imported from clear-felled forests.

Drax is the world’s biggest tree burner4 and emitted almost 13 million tonnes of CO2 from burning wood in 2019, yet it is lauded by the UK government5 as part of the climate solution. To understand why Drax receives such strong political support, we need to investigate the murky world of corporate capture.

Corporate capture is defined by Friends of the Earth International6 as “the influence of companies on public institutions.” Polluting industries use lobbying and greenwashing to influence public institutions and government policy, often with devastating consequences for communities, ecosystems and the climate. A supreme player in this game is Drax Plc, and its influence is one of the primary obstacles to the protection of forests and to the transfer of public money from biomass burning to genuine renewables such as wind and solar.

How does a company like Drax influence government policy? Just some of the strategies7 used to shape decision making include behind-the-scenes lobbying of politicians, corporate sponsorship of UN COP climate summits8 and other events, the funding of academic research, membership of national and international committees and the greenwashing of harmful practices as “sustainable” and “climate-friendly.” Through these means, the world’s biggest polluters ensure that they are at the heart of decision-making and in a prime position to secure government subsidies that allow them to continue profiting from environmental destruction.

For a masterclass in lobbying and greenwashing techniques which have led to forest destruction, environmental injustice9 and climate-wrecking emissions, we need look no further than Drax. Let’s dig deeper into some of its corporate capture methods.

Firstly, Drax has a long history of influencing government decision making through MP lobbying. According to Open Access,dix Drax has attended a total of 53 meetings with ministers since the start of 2012, including a number of meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.11 Almost every energy minister since 2012 has been photographed at Drax wearing a high viz and a hard hat, with the most recent photo opportunity being a visit by Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng,12 in April. According to the Scottish Parliament’s lobbying register,13 Drax has also attended 19 meetings with MSPs and officials since 2019.

These meetings have paid dividends as Drax secured government support for its conversion from coal to wood burning in 2013 after making misleading claims to MPs that it could burn forestry residues and locally-produced crops14 when it in fact required wood from slow-growing trees with a high bark content to burn in its coal units. More recently, Kwarteng15 has praised Drax’s claim that it can become a “carbon-negative”16 power station while Drax’s BECCS pilot project to capture and store carbon from burning wood received £2 million in government funding17 in 2018.

Drax is a founding member of the Zero Carbon Humber Coalition18 which has launched its application for around £75 million in government funding19 under the public/private sector funded Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund with an open letter to the energy minister.20 Kwarteng must be very familiar with the project by now after meeting with members of the ZCH coalition no less than 11 times between April and June 2020, to discuss “the impact of Covid 19” and “the green recovery”.

What Drax does not mention is that its ambition to “build back better”21 with “negative emissions technologies” is based upon unproven Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technology22 from tree burning which would lead to even more forest destruction and conversion of land to monoculture tree plantations if it were ever made to work.

Another corporate capture technique is the use of lobby groups such as The Renewable Energy Association23 (REA) and PR companies including Robertsbridge and Stonehaven, which have represented Drax’s interests. For several years the REA ran a campaign, also supported by coal power station operators, called “Back Biomass”, which organized meetings and events with MPs including a meeting with Lord Barker of Battle,24 minister of state for DECC, to discuss “backing biomass” in June 2014.

Drax has also made regular appearances at the Conservative Party Conference, often facilitated by the influential think tank, Policy Exchange.25 At the 2020 Conservative Party Conference,26 for example, Drax’s CEO, Will Gardiner, spoke alongside Kwarteng to discuss “green technologies of tomorrow”. Last year, Drax’s investors rebelled during the company’s AGM over proposals to increase the “political spending”27 budget threshold for lobbying28 at events such as receptions at political party conferences, such large amounts making even them uncomfortable.

Drax’s links to the government do not end there. Nigel Adams, the MP for Selby where Drax is situated and a leading supporter of biomass burning, received donations29 and hospitality from Drax and attended Industrial Pellet Association conferences30 in Florida between 2015 and 2019, all paid for by Drax. The MP also chaired the now defunct All Party Parliamentary Group for Biomass,31 which was set up and funded by Drax.

Moreover, Nigel Adams is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Renewable and Sustainable Energy32 (PRASEG). The cross-party group of UK politicians and industry regularly hosts Drax speakers, including CEO Will Gardiner and the former head of policy and government relations at Drax, Karl Smyth.33 One of PRASEG’s “full supporters” or funders34 just happens to be Drax.

Drax’s influence is not limited to its relationships with politicians. The Group Head of Climate Change at Drax, Rebecca Heaton, is also a member of the Committee on Climate Change35 (CCC), an advisory body to the UK government. She has previously worked for BP and Shell and contributed to CCC reports on ”Reducing UK emissions”36 and ”Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”.37 The latter report supports Drax’s claim that “BECCS is critical to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”38

Rebecca Heaton is not the only Drax representative with links to government advisory bodies. CEO Will Gardiner sits on the Government’s CCUS council39 alongside representatives of BHP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Equinor. This is the same CCUS council that gave £5 million in funding to Drax and a small start-up company called C-Capture40 for an unsuccessful BECCS experiment to capture carbon from tree burning and “store” the CO2 to make beer fizzy.

Equally alarming is Rebecca Heaton’s recent appointment to the Natural Environment Research Council41 which is responsible for funding academic research42 across the environmental sciences. This is not Drax’s only connection to academic research. The company set up the quarterly publication, Electric Insights43 with academics from Imperial College London, commissioned a report in 2018 with academics from UCL,44 funded PhD research at Sheffield University45 and appointed the Independent Advisory Board on Sustainable Biomass46 in 2019. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the IAB’s first report47 is supportive of Drax’s “sustainable biomass”. Through these appointments and funding of scientific research, Drax can influence the scientific narrative around biomass burning.

Drax is also adept at greenwashing its tree burning48 as “sustainable”, ”broadly neutral in terms of CO2« 49 and “renewable”, and Drax representatives regularly speak at the UN COP climate conferences.50 Drax has described COP26 as a “compelling opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate to the world it is taking a leadership position on negative emissions”51 and two of its partners in the Zero Carbon Humber Coalition, National Grid and SSE,52 have just been announced as COP26 sponsors. Even if Drax is not named as a COP26 sponsor, its frequent references to the UN Climate Conference53 suggest that it aims to play a leading role in promoting BECCS and “negative emissions technologies” during the COP.

While it’s doubtful that Drax and its collaborators will be able to capture and store carbon on anything like the scale they claim, there is a risk that vast amounts of public money and time will continue to be spent on these schemes and on biomass-burning in general. This would mean that in the crucial years that we could be protecting forests and reducing our emissions, Drax will continue to burn millions of tonnes of trees every year. For the sake of our planet, we cannot allow Drax to continue greenwashing its forest destruction and promoting false solutions such as BECCS and energy generation from biomass. As over 120 organizations from around the world agree,54 we urgently need to end subsidies for tree burning and redirect them to genuine renewables: “Protecting and restoring the world’s forests is a climate solution, burning them is not.”

You can take action here: https://you.wemove.eu/campaigns/the-eu-must-protect-forests-not-burn-them-for-energy

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-national-parks-and-thousands-of-green-jobs-under-plans-to-build-back-greener
2 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-outlines-his-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution-for-250000-jobs
3 https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/axedrax-campaign/#C3
4 https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/drax-briefing-update-2020_compressed.pdf
5 https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/columnists/how-hull-and-humber-will-power-green-energy-revolution-kwasi-kwarteng-2932751
6 https://www.foei.org/what-we-do/corporate-capture
7 https://www.foei.org/what-we-do/corporate-capture-explained
8 https://corporateeurope.org/en/2019/12/cop25-bankrolled-big-polluters
9 https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2020/06/the-injustice-of-bioenergy-production/

dix https://openaccess.transparency.org.uk/
11 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/929740/april-june-2020-disclosure-ministerial-meetings.csv/preview
12 https://www.c-capture.co.uk/clean-growth-minister-kwasi-kwarteng-visits-the-c-capture-pilot-project-at-drax-power-station/
13 https://www.lobbying.scot/SPS/LobbyingRegister/SearchLobbyingRegister
14 http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/Drax-PR.pdf
15 https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/columnists/how-hull-and-humber-will-power-green-energy-revolution-kwasi-kwarteng-2932751
16 https://www.drax.com/press_release/negative-emissions-pioneer-drax-announces-new-ccus-projects-during-energy-ministers-visit/
17 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-to-enable-first-uk-carbon-capture-project-from-the-mid-2020s-announced-at-world-first-summit
18 https://www.zerocarbonhumber.co.uk/
19 https://www.current-news.co.uk/news/zero-carbon-humber-makes-75-million-bid-for-funding
20 https://www.zerocarbonhumber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Open-letter-to-Kwasi-Kwarteng-with-support-letters.pdf
21 https://www.drax.com/energy-policy/coalition-negative-emissions/
22 https://www.desmog.co.uk/2019/07/17/comment-policymakers-shouldn-t-trust-drax-s-bizarre-tree-burning-climate-solution
23 https://www.r-e-a.net/our-members/our-members-directory/
24 https://openaccess.transparency.org.uk/
25 https://policyexchange.org.uk/2018-conservative-party-conference/
26 https://brightblue.org.uk/previous-events/2020events/party-conferences-2020/

27 https://www.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EC1068989_Drax_AR19_Notice_of_Meeting.pdf
28 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/04/17/drax-investors-rebel-political-spending-splurge/
29 https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2017/03/31/mp-biomass-adams-donations-miami/
30 https://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=24878
31 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/170215/biomass.htm
32 https://www.praseg.org.uk/parliamentary-members
33 https://uk.linkedin.com/in/karlsmyth
34 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/201104/renewable-and-sustainable-energy.htm
35 https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/
36 https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2019-progress-report-to-parliament/
37 https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/
38 https://www.drax.com/press_release/drax-group-ceo-responds-to-committee-on-climate-changes-report-to-parliament-reducing-uk-emissions/
39 https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/ccus-council
40 https://www.drax.com/press_release/5m-boost-scale-ground-breaking-carbon-capture-pilot-drax-uks-largest-power-station/
41 https://nerc.ukri.org/about/organisation/boards/council/membership/
42 https://nerc.ukri.org/funding/
43 https://www.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/200207_Drax_19Q4_Report_3.pdf
44 https://www.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Energising-Britain-Drax-Imperial-E4Tech-Full-Report-Nov-2018.pdf
45 https://www.drax.com/press_release/drax-collaborates-academics-meet-uks-changing-energy-needs/
46 https://www.drax.com/press_release/drax-strengthens-biomass-sustainability-policy-and-appoints-independent-advisory-board/
47 https://www.drax.com/press_release/draxs-new-biomass-policy-paves-the-way-for-world-leading-sustainability-standard/

48 https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2019/02/more-greenwashing-from-drax/
49 https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/a-power-companys-potent-vision-from-neutral-to-negative-emissions#
50 https://www.drax.com/energy-policy/will-gardiners-drax-negative-carbon-ambition-remarks-at-cop25/
51 https://www.drax.com/energy-policy/coalition-negative-emissions/
52 https://cultureunstained.org/2020/11/18/campaigners-slam-choice-of-fossil-fuel-linked-companies-as-sponsors-of-cop26/
53 https://www.drax.com/energy-policy/cop26-will-countries-with-the-boldest-climate-policies-reach-their-targets/
54 https://environmentalpaper.org/the-biomass-delusion/


Conclusion: The vicious cycle of corporate capture of policy-making and perverse incentives for forest destruction

By Oliver Munnion, Global Forest Coalition, Portugal; and Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay

Public-private partnerships lead to commercial activities like industrial tree plantations rather than forest conservation. Simone Lovera

The diverse range of examples in this report describe how perverse incentives for the livestock and forestry industries and an increasing dependence on private finance by the public sector are causing conflicts with communities and harming forests. They also show how finance for forest destruction is a result of corporate capture of policy-making, which is a self-reinforcing cycle. The influence that corporations and private interests wield over decision-making is continually strengthened by the support they receive, which also puts corporations in a strong position to block legislation that might remove subsidies or curtail their activities.

Perverse incentives come in many forms, starting with direct subsidies. The clearest example of this, dubbed the biggest perverse incentive of all, is the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, providing vast subsidies to the biggest names in agribusiness at the expense of small producers and in clear contradiction with other EU policies aimed at protecting biodiversity. Direct subsidies are also driving intensification in livestock production in the global South, particularly in countries where these industries are still relatively small. In Nepal, for example, government programs are subsidizing machinery and insurance premiums exclusively for large farms.

Climate finance and subsidized renewable energy generation are another form of direct subsidy that often harms forests while failing to reduce emissions. The most prominent example is Drax power station in the UK, which receives £2 million per day to produce highly polluting electricity from wood clear-felled from highly biodiverse wetland forests in the southeastern United States, among other places. Other examples include the Global Environment Facility’s subsidy to iron and steel companies to produce charcoal from eucalyptus plantations in Brazil, and numerous national and EU-level subsidies available to the pulp and paper industry in Portugal.

Financial incentives come in a whole range of complex financial instruments. These include loans, equity, public-private partnerships and blended finance. Here, public funds or institutions “partner” with the private sector in investments that are expected to generate a financial return, making commercial activities such as livestock farming and tree plantations particularly attractive. For example, over 2020-21, the Brazilian government will invest almost 40 billion Euros in its livestock sector, with most of the finance coming in the form of loans from state-owned development banks such as BNDES.

The role of national, regional and international development banks in this type of finance is key, and is a driving force behind the meat and forestry industries. For example, World Bank mechanisms such as the International Finance Corporation and Forest Investment Program are funding Portucel’s establishment of eucalyptus plantations on land used by communities to grow food in Mozambique. The European Investment Bank (EIB) has also provided finance multiple times to Portucel’s owner, The Navigator Company, which is Europe’s largest producer of pulp and paper. The EIB is also financing plantation expansion in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa through the Arbaro Fund.

Perhaps most alarming is the growth of opaque private sector-led financial instruments that are supposed to support emissions reductions but often just incentivize the continuation of destructive practices. Schemes such as green or climate bonds are intended to fund projects that mitigate climate change, but in Brazil, these are simply facilitating easier access for investors to agribusiness and funneling billions of dollars into an industry that is clearly having a catastrophic impact on forests, local communities and the climate. Climate finance mechanisms are also driving this trend, with increasing dependence on the private sector and complex financial arrangements becoming the new norm. An example of this is the 25-million-dollar equity stake that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) bought in the Arbaro Fund, meaning that this UN finance institution will share in the profits from commercial forestry operations. It therefore has a strong interest in ensuring that the trees are cut down and sold to the highest bidder.

These kinds of perverse incentives are part of a broader trend whereby the lines between finance for forest conservation and climate mitigation and incentives for forest destruction and high-emissions industries are becoming more and more blurred due to the influence of powerful commercial interests. A number of REDD+ projects are an example of this, whereby some of the world’s dirtiest companies are greenwashing their image by buying carbon offsets generated by them.

Forms of indirect support are just as varied, and exceptionally low tax rates are the key form of indirect incentives benefiting the livestock industry in South America. Even in a good year, Paraguay’s agricultural sector contributes less than 3% of total national tax revenues, even though it accounts for 27% of GDP. Tax breaks are also being used to incentivize the expansion of feedstock farming into protected wetland areas in Argentina, as are low interest rates that make investment in the livestock sectors particularly attractive in Brazil and Argentina.

Artificially low minimum wages and impunity for poor working conditions are another means of incentivizing investment, particularly in Paraguay, where the livestock industry is allowed to pay its workers less than half of the national minimum wage depending on the size of the ranch. In Mozambique, jobs created through plantation expansion have been far fewer than promised, poorly paid and seasonal, and in DRC, women face sexual harassment in the livestock industry and earn less than men. In Portugal, a union representing workers in the Navigator Company’s pulp mills has criticized the company for doing nothing to support workers during the pandemic while paying large dividends to shareholders.

A common theme running throughout the examples in this report is the extent to which bad governance acts an incentive for forest destruction. In DRC, commercial livestock farming directly benefits from the country’s political instability and violent disregard for human rights. Marginalized groups, including women and Indigenous Peoples who often have no formal land rights, are not able to assert their rights and cannot depend on the justice system, while company owners are protected by the authorities due to their shared interests.

In both DRC and Mozambique, laws regarding the ownership and use of land where land is state-owned and the state grants the rights to use it make it very easy for land to be taken away from communities and given to private interests with far more influence, especially where companies can claim that land is degraded, marginal or abandoned, and therefore in need of economic development. In Paraguay, the success of the entire agro-industry hinges on the fact that over the last 200 years the Colorado Party has handed over 70% of land in the country to 2% of the population, representing a huge subsidy that underpins Paraguay’s meat and feedstock production.

Highlighted in this report are numerous different mechanisms by which corporations are capturing policy-making, from processes that take place within an institutionalized and semi-transparent context, to where bad governance and weak institutions are taken advantage of by those with the financial capital to do so.

The clearest form of corporate capture is where government representatives use their positions of authority for their own private interests, such as in the three examples of companies in South Kivu in DRC where representatives of state and local governments have a stake in livestock and mining enterprises, and in the example of the Czech prime minister, who stands to directly gain from renewed subsidies for agribusiness awarded under EUCAP. This is also the case with Portugal’s “revolving door” between government and the pulp and paper industry, whose interests are consistently prioritized as a result. In these examples, there is a clear conflict of interest for those involved, but it is rarely challenged.

Also at the heart of corporate capture are nepotism, where those with power and influence use it to favor friends and relatives, clientelism, where incentives are swapped for political support, and of course corruption. In Nepal, an inside source indicates that most of the newly registered agricultural companies that are benefiting from government subsidies were established by political elites on the instruction of local elected leaders, ensuring that money allocated in agricultural subsidies is mostly paid to wealthy farmers with government connections. In Paraguay, land is still being stolen by government officials for cattle ranching through influence-peddling and bribery and, in Portugal, the former president of The Navigator Company openly donated large sums to presidential election campaigns in exchange for continued support from the very top of government.

Corporate sponsorship and influence over policy-making spaces to both greenwash company images and influence outcomes is another form of corporate capture. This practice is well-established in the UNFCCC, with Shell boasting about its role in negotiations over international carbon markets, the International Emissions Trading Association flooding COP25 with 140 delegates including representatives from some of the biggest oil and gas companies and Drax and its allies positioning themselves to take advantage of COP26 talks being held in the UK.

Another key process through which corporate capture is carried out is lobbying by companies themselves or the industry associations and public relations firms that represent them. In the UK, Drax Plc has attended 53 meetings with government ministers since the start of 2012, and almost every UK energy minister since 2012 has taken part in a publicity stunt at the power station. In Argentina, the Consejo Agroindustrial Argentino, a powerful agroindustry lobby group has directly lobbied the president and numerous other officials in its efforts to push state-sponsored agricultural expansion into wetland areas. In Brazil, one of the main ways that the agribusiness sector exerts its political influence is through the bancada ruralista, where elected representatives represent the interests of big agribusinesses. Powerful lobbying interests also continue to ensure the dominance of agribusiness in EU agriculture-related policy-making.

Corporate philanthropy and the capture of the UN

Corporate philanthropy is another method corporations use to gain influence over public policies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, which is financed by Bill Gates, ex-CEO of Microsoft and an active shareholder in the agro-industrial giant Monsanto (now Bayer),1 is one of the key funders of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which aims to boost African agro-industry through enhanced use of the agrochemicals and genetically modified crops that Bayer produces. The president of AGRA was recently appointed as the UN’s Special Envoy to the upcoming UN Food Summit. In January 2020, the Gates foundation launched “The Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations LLC”, also known as “Gates Ag One”, led by Joe Cornelius, a former executive of Bayer. The goal of Gates Ag One is purportedly “to empower smallholder farmers with the affordable, high-quality tools, technologies, and resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty.”2 The Gates Foundation also plays an increasingly influential role in what used to be the world’s public seed banks and agricultural research centres, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.3

Recommendations: Breaking the “circular economy” of perverse incentives and corporate capture

Audre Lorde, a feminist civil rights activist, once proclaimed that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Lorde was rejecting using “the tools of a racist patriarchy…to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy”, but these words can also be applied to the struggle to end deforestation and defend the rights and livelihoods of forest peoples.

Reforming and phasing out perverse incentives that trigger forest loss is not only key to halting deforestation and forest degradation. It also tends to have many social and economic co-benefits, and frees up significant amounts of public funding that can be re-invested in genuine solutions to the planetary crises humanity faces, as well as public services such as health care and education. However, the case studies in this report demonstrate how the corporate capture of policy-making and increased dependence on private investment only creates additional perverse incentives that themselves are a barrier to the reform of existing ones. As the saying goes, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. And when that hand benefits from generous subsidies and other forms of government support, a circular economy is formed in which corporations and government agencies have the same financial interests, to the detriment of the rights, needs and interests of ordinary people.

Public institutions should represent the interests of all people, including politically and economically marginalized rightsholders like women, Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent peoples, and not the interests of a handful of big corporations. Breaking the circular economy of perverse incentives and corporate capture first and foremost requires a genuine transformation of governance structures to ensure they are impartial and independent and in a position to defend, respect and support the rights, needs and interests of the public as a whole. This is true for national governments and their agencies, but it is also true for the UN system and international organizations like the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the UN Development Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Cutting financial dependency on private sector investment also requires addressing some of the underlying assumptions that have led many actors in the forest conservation sector to adopt an “eco-capitalist” approach that is firmly founded on the belief that forests grow on money, and that forests are not able to “manage” themselves. Forests are perfectly capable of managing themselves, and would do so were it not for the vast amounts of funding flowing into sectors that destroy them.

Essentially, the endless drive for growth that the capitalist economic system has created cannot be used to solve the problems it has created, which now manifest as a biodiversity and climate crisis unparalleled in geological history, and economic recession and social injustice unparalleled in human history. Systemic change is required to survive these challenges. Breaking the many ties between public policy-making and the private, commercial interests of large corporations and their executives is vital to achieving this. Only then will we be able to redirect perverse incentives for forest destruction into genuine support for gender-responsive, community-driven forest restoration and conservation—which might not require much capital anyway.

1 http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/sep/29/gates-foundation-gm-monsanto
2 https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2020/01/Gates-Foundation-Statement-on-Creation-of-Nonprofit-Agricultural-Research-Institute
3 https://etcgroup.org/content/next-agribusiness-takeover-multilateral-food-agencies


Editorial Team: Coraina de la Plaza, Isis Alvarez, Megan Morrissey, Oliver Munnion and Simone Lovera

Editors: Oliver Munnion and Megan Morrissey

Translators: Danae Barrera, Elena Kreuzberg, Megan Morrissey, Oliver Munnion, Patricia Puechagut, Pierre-Yves Serinet and Svetlana Abramovich

Design: Oliver Munnion

This publication has been produced with the assistance of Misereor, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Global Forest Coalition and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of donors.

16 Dec, 2020
Posted in Forest Cover, Unsustainable Livestock Production, Resources and publications, Forests, trees and climate change, Trade and other underlying causes of forest loss



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