Shell has consistently supported carbon emissions trading and, in certain areas of the world, carbon taxes. Beyond carbon capture and nature-based solutions, it promotes reliance on carbon markets as a core climate action strategy that is in line with their business goals. But how successful have these neoliberal tools really been in moving us towards an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist future? Can some of their inefficiencies be resolved by tweaking market rules or is the idea of carbon pricing simply doomed to fail based on an inherently flawed logic?
Carbon pricing & trading has come to dominate the debate on how to curb climate change. Its proponents span the field, from governments and corporations to parts of the white climate movement in the Global North. Simply put, with carbon pricing, a price is put on carbon emissions (usually CO2) by either taxing its production or by creating an emissions trading system. Such policies aim to make carbon pollution more expensive, to reduce demand and to eventually create incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy.
For this discussion we will be joined by Dr. Tamra Gilbertson, she is the Climate Change and Forest Policy Advisor at Indigenous Environmental Network or IEN. She is also a longtime activist, scholar and educator on the topic of carbon pricing.
The UN Agenda 21 report on sustainable development in the 21st Century: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/outcomedocuments/agenda21
Kyoto Protocol 1997: https://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol
CDM or Clean Development Mechanism: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-kyoto-protocol/mechanisms-under-the-kyoto-protocol/the-clean-development-mechanism
Short report that looks at the history of the Emissions Trading Systems we have today: https://co2colonialism.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Carbon-Pricing-A-Critical-Perspective-for-Community-Resistance-Online-Version.pdf
A list of terms that we refer to, like cap and trade, REDD, carbon capture and nature-based solutions: https://co2colonialism.org/list-of-terms/
Education toolkit from IEN on carbon pricing: https://co2colonialism.org/
IEN’s media platform, Indigenous Rising, which will be launching a podcast of its own soon hopefully during COP26: https://indigenousrising.org/
Indigenous Environmental Network’s website: http://ienearth.org/
Tamra refers to Turtle Island in the episode, which is the name that a number of Indigenous nations use for the land mass known as ‘North America’.
MS: In today’s episode we will discuss the potential and risks carbon pricing holds in building a future beyond Shell.
Carbon pricing & trading has come to dominate the debate on how to curb climate change. Its proponents span the field, from governments and corporations to parts of the white climate movement in the Global North. Simply put, with carbon pricing, a price is put on carbon emissions (usually CO2) by either taxing its production or by creating an emissions trading system. Such policies aim to make carbon pollution more expensive, to reduce demand and to eventually create incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy. Today, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) is the climate regulatory tool with the widest reach within the European Union. It manages the emissions of about 11.000 power stations and industrial plants across Europe, including those of Shell that are responsible for 45% of the EU’s CO2 emissions. Most recently the EU has announced that it will expand its ETS in the upcoming years to meet its ambitions set out in the European Green Deal and it is expected that discussions around carbon pricing will form an integral part of the upcoming negotiations at the COP26 in Glasgow.
Shell has consistently supported carbon emissions trading and, in certain areas of the world, carbon taxes. Next to carbon capture and nature-based solutions, it promotes reliance on carbon markets as a core climate action strategy that is in line with their business goals.
But how successful have these neoliberal tools really been in moving us towards an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist future? Can some of their inefficiencies be resolved by tweaking market rules or is the idea of carbon pricing based on an inherently flawed logic?
A: Today we have with us Dr. Tamra Gilbertson, she is the Climate Change and Forest Policy Advisor at Indigenous Environmental Network or IEN. She is also a longtime activist, researcher and educator on the topic of carbon pricing. It’s worth noting at the outset that Tamra and IEN have done a lot of amazing work to educate the public about the implications of carbon pricing, including publishing an education toolkit that we will link to in the show notes. Tamra, we are so excited to have you with us today!
T: Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
MS: Yeah, also a warm welcome from my side Tamra. I feel that we have a lot of ground to cover today. So maybe we can jump in immediately with the first question. In this episode, we want to discuss a little bit more the pros and cons of carbon pricing. So maybe you can start off with explaining what carbon pricing is.
T: Yeah, carbon pricing is really a mystery for many, because it’s so complex. A lot of the language is filled with strange meanings of words and it is constantly changing. But really, when we think about carbon price we have to go back to the 1990s to really get a full picture of what we’re talking about. And we can trace this back, even to the Earth Summit of 1992 that was in Rio de Janeiro. So at the time in the 1990s, what was happening was that economic development projects had ramped up after World War II through Bretton Woods institutions, like the World Bank and really promised to alleviate poverty through development. But what was happening in the early 90s -and this was right after the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall fell- was that there was a focus on Environment and Development, and seeing that the development projects that were happening in the Global South, were actually causing a lot more harm than good. So the United Nations called for a conference on Environment and Development, this was this was the Rio Earth Summit, and came up with something called Agenda 21. This was to address what they called then sustainable development. And towards the 21st century the idea was to continue development projects, but somehow green them in a way. There was a lot of push back, and it ended up looking like a lot more of the same. And at the same time in Rio, the United Nations came up with two separate bodies. They recognized that the two sort of key issues around environment were climate change and biodiversity loss. So this is where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was really born. The other body is the United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity. But for the most part what we’ll talk about when we talk about carbon pricing today and carbon trading, is what’s underneath the UNCCC. So moving a little bit further ahead to ’97, when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed upon. Originally, the Kyoto Protocol was really just something that looked like the Montreal Protocol, whereby the parties or the countries involved wanted to reduce greenhouse gases by a certain amount based on a certain year. So originally it was 5.2% based on 1990 levels. And the idea would be to reduce those emissions year upon year until parties reached that level and then come up with another goal after that, much like the Montreal Protocol did for ozone that seemed to be quite effective. But Al Gore was the vice president of the United States at the time and he and the US delegation really pushed for what was called flexible mechanisms. And they argued that there was a sulfur trading program in California that was effective and that they wanted to implement this to create carbon markets to buy and sell and trade per pollution permits between companies. If they could do that then the companies could reduce emissions by buying and selling and trading permits. So this is really where this was born. There was push back but at the beginning of the 2000s, the flexible mechanisms were adopted in Kyoto in two ways: One was cap and trade programs also called emissions trading systems or ETSs and the other was carbon offsets. And at that point, there was no mention of carbon pricing. It was all around carbon trading. And that’s really the origin, or a very brief overview of the origin.
MS: Yeah, thank you so much. I think these historical perspectives, I always find really interesting, but also very confronting to hear how long we’ve been discussing these things already. But yeah, you mentioned already, that the two most common forms that carbon pricing is taking is, on the one hand, carbon taxing and you have carbon emissions trade. So could you elaborate a little bit further, what these two tools or mechanisms entail, and maybe what the underlying logic is?
T: Cap and Trade systems or emissions trading systems function basically like this. So a cap and trade system, or an ETS is always underneath a government body to regulate it. So because they’re regulated by a government we call them compliance markets. So we can imagine that there are two different polluting entities, let’s say A is a Chevron oil refinery, and B is a cement factory. And underneath the system, a government basically gives permits, or allowances to these polluting entities to be able to pollute just so much. And if they don’t pollute, let’s imagine the cement factory pollutes half as it normally would, it can then take half of those permits that it’s given, and trade that or sell that to the Chevron oil refinery. So Chevron can pollute more than it’s capped amount. So this is cap and trade, the idea is then that permits get ratcheted down year on year, and eventually, there’s less permits to use. This is how it should work in theory, but it’s far more complex than that, of course. In reality, what we see again, it’s important to note that the price of those permits, it’s given a monetary value, and the price that is on a market that sits, like a stock market, which is subject to boom and bust cycles, like any other market. So when the price of that permit, which represents 1 tonne of CO2 equivalent, equivalent being the different greenhouse gases weighted against a carbon dioxide molecule, when that price is high, what we see is that there’s not a lot of buying going on. But when the price is low, many of the corporations will buy them up, sip and bank them and they can bank them on to the next time period towards the future when the prices go high. And also we’ve seen a lot of fraud in the cap and trade systems whereby the permits are not retired. So the corporations will buy the permits and rather than retiring them, they’ll pass them on or sell them on again. That’s hugely problematic or they buy them when they’re low priced, and then sell them high when the market fault comes up and they earn a profit off of them. So what we’ve seen like with Shell for example, Shell has its own entire unit that functions to make sure that it can earn a profit off of this. But importantly, I want to add that all cap and trade systems have some type of carbon offset mechanism that goes along with it. Now the offsets, the offset credits, these are not permits, these are credits sort of burst that bubble and corporations like in the California cap and trade system if they want to pollute even more they can then buy carbon offsets and carbon offsets or projects that are happening somewhere else for something else, often land based, sometimes fuel switching, that can be a whole myriad of different types of projects or programs that are supposedly reducing emissions. And there are so many problems with carbon offsets. For example, one of the key issues here is that when we’re talking about forest offsets, or soil offsets or any other type of land based offset, or ocean offset, there’s an equivalency that’s given between fossil fuels, which are safely in the ground, that represent this slow carbon cycle or this safely locked in carbon cycle that’s not impacting the fast cycle in the atmosphere, biosphere between the land and the ocean, and the clouds and the atmosphere. And we’re a part of that fast cycle. And it has taken Earth, millions of years to really create a type of a balance that keeps life as we understand it in balance, and in that fast carbon cycle is in balance. But when we burn the locked in fossil fuels, it disrupts that balance. And it accumulates. And we know that it disrupts it, because otherwise we wouldn’t have climate change. So my point here being is that there’s not an equivalent. The Earth is not this endless sponge, to absorb fossil fuel emissions. It can’t and even the IPCC has said that we’re starting to reach a saturation point that hundreds, maybe take 1000s of years for the earth to be able to balance out the emissions that are already accumulated in the atmosphere. So there’s not an equivalent, you can’t plant trees and say that that’s an offset to fossil fuel emissions, because it doesn’t work that way. Because they’re not the same thing. One is from a different cycle that is locked into the earth. And the other one is something that is already part of that living system. So it’s kind of a long explanation to say that when carbon offsets are put into the cap and trade system, it really bursts that bubble, both in economic terms, but also in terms of how we understand the complexities of life.
MS: Yeah, I think this is a great point and I think the issue of the financialization of nature is something that we want to delve into in just a little bit. But maybe to take one step back for our listeners. Could you just briefly explain what the difference of carbon taxation is in comparison to carbon trade? And maybe also, you can give some example in what countries carbon taxes already exist, and where maybe carbon trading is operational?
T: That’s an important question, yes, so carbon taxes. So by 2005, the Global North, some countries in the Global North like the EU and Japan, and a handful of others, eg New Zealand had set up their ETS systems. Under Kyoto there’s something called common but differentiated responsibilities, meaning there was a recognition that countries in the Global North were the only ones that were responsible, or historically responsible, for causing climate change, which is true. It was perhaps one of the guiding lights of the Kyoto era and the clean development mechanism was set up to be run underneath the United Nations and the World Bank, but only in the Global South, where the credits would be issued, the carbon offsets to be sold to the programs in the Global North as offsets for their ETS systems or the cap and trade systems. So, these were the early days of the set up in 2005 and we predicted very early on that these markets would become saturated with permits and credits and that would drive down a bust cycle in economic terms and make these credits and permit almost worthless and that’s exactly what happened. So there was this massive crisis. By 2012, the EU ETS system, the market crashed by about a third of its value. And the EU recognized by 2013, that there was about 2.1 billion surplus permits still floating around in the market that shouldn’t be there. And we had said this really early on that this is something that would happen. So the state then stepped in, like it always does when capitalist economics fail, and just created a backloading program by 2015, and just pulled those out, and they eliminated an excess permit, from somewhere between 2.5 billion to 1.7 8 billion. Today, the prices has lifted up because of the backloading program. But again, we have to ask ourselves, like, we hear from a lot of proponents, if we just let the market figure itself out, or the Hidden Hand of the market, this will self regulate, etc. But no capitalist market really functions that way. It’s always the state that steps in to try to fix it. And this is one of the great flaws that we see in financializing, something like pollution. If we’re creating a proxy for pollution, the pollution is not actually going anywhere, right. And the same thing happened with the CDM. And hang on with me for a second because I’m about to get to taxes. So with the clean development mechanism, or the CDM, we saw the same thing happened that by about 2013, the price of carbon credits came when they took a nosedive to almost zero, they were almost worthless. And of course the big multinational corporations bought them all up when they were cheap. But again, that means that the pollution, essentially what economics is telling us is that it’s worthless and what kind of a message is that when we’re dealing with a climate emergency. So what’s interesting here is that the World Bank and handful of leaders met that year in 2013 and they kind of scratched their heads and said, what are we going to do? So rather than admitting defeat, and saying, yeah, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, this is serious, let’s say this was an interesting 15 year experiment that didn’t work, let’s come up with another plan. Instead, they said, let’s wrap this up and create a bigger market that’s more robust. And what’s happened since then, is they included the folding in carbon taxes into these programs and a massive push for putting carbon taxes underneath the umbrella term of carbon pricing. So carbon pricing essentially means more voluntary markets, more carbon taxes, folded into the compliance markets, with the REDD schemes -REDD being, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation- and I’m going to talk a little bit about some of my research in Colombia around what’s called nested REDD with the carbon tax scheme underneath a greenhouse gas emission program. Nested red and carbon tax scheme, we can see this in a few different countries. But one of the schemes that has come online and that’s really fast in the last sort of six years you can see in Colombia. Colombia has created a greenhouse gas inventory system and an after that in about 2016 passed a carbon tax. And the carbon tax taxes different types of fuels when they’re used. But what we’ve seen in one specific case study is that coal corporations, coal mining corporations, and these are the biggest open pit coal mines in the Western Hemisphere, they impact Indigenous Wayuu people in La Guajira and they have massive impacts on African Colombian communities in terms of displacement, dispossession, water, water contamination, water scarcity, food scarcity issues, and a whole host of human rights violations that have been tracked. And some of these coal corporations are in on the scheme. And so rather than paying the carbon tax for the emissions from their vehicles that are used in the coal mines, they can then instead buy into a REDD scheme for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation scheme on the other side of the country that impacts Afro-Colombian communities on the Pacific Coast, and they can say, we will pay money to this community or this project to not deforest anymore there. And by paying through the system, they only have to pay a third of the carbon tax that they would normally pay. And so they get a tax break essentially, through doing this program. But also other researchers on the Pacific Coast have seen that of course, it’s not the Afro-Colombian communities that are causing deforestation, but rather logging companies in different gangs that are involved. And it’s actually throughout the world with REDD programs, we see how these programs drive up the price of land, they cause dispossession. We’ve seen examples of armed dispossession in parts of Africa, we’ve seen indigenous communities massively impacted by REDD programs and these types of forest offset programs. And so lumping this all underneath a carbon pricing system that’s deeply flawed and deeply replicates a colonialist system of land grabbing, is very far from addressing, going all the way back to 1992, of addressing the development problems of dispossession. But what we see is a replication of development paradigm, really, and we see a replication of that inside of the architecture of carbon pricing. We see a replication of big oil and gas industries and coal industries using these programs to continue extractivism throughout the world. And in making a profit off of something that the rest of us are being told, is supposed to be addressing the climate emergency and we do not have time, this has been a massive fail. And as we go towards the Paris Agreement being finalized and Article Six, which is the carbon pricing element or the architecture of the carbon pricing piece that’s being hashed out right now, in the Paris Agreement, we see these programs being replicated. For example, the clean development mechanism is now going to be under the Paris Agreement called the Sustainable Development Mechanism. And the sustainable development mechanism will function similarly. But observing some of the UN meetings many parties have made it very clear that they will make sure that this is is geared towards the private sector. At the same time, we have voluntary markets outside of the compliance markets that’s just like Joe down the street, setting up his carbon offset business and starting to sort of buy and sell and trade on the market and getting some programs in. And getting these into what some of the proponents will say, oh but you know, we have our gold standards etc, etc. but these are unregulated markets. And even that doesn’t matter, because it goes back to the main flaws of what land based offsets. We’re talking about different carbon cycles and ultimately, buying and selling and trading the sky, and the earth, and the land is not the answer. We can’t, we can’t financialize that. We can’t put a price on it in monetary terms, and capitalize it and say that we’re dealing with something that ultimately allows for the biggest polluting industries in the world, the ones that are responsible for climate change, to continue a process that delays us and distracts us from really what needs to happen and that’s keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Full stop.
A: Definitely Tamra, so if I can just pick out some of the key things that I understood from what you were just saying about trading systems as well as taxes and and how they don’t work. So nature and people’s lives are being exchanged for profit. Often, there’s too many permits that are issued, so we have the surplus situation. So the prices of these permits nosedive and so polluting industries can continue without really paying the price, then we have all these offsetting programs that really allow us again, to exchange nature and expand the amount of trading that can happen. And taxes often get, or have been folded into these trading systems allowing companies to get out of really paying taxes. Is that it? I’m wondering whether there any other sort of specific points I should pull out?
T: Yeah, there’s a couple pieces here that I didn’t get into. One thing I want to mention is that since that sort of shift that I mentioned in 2012, 2013. And as the Paris Agreement was agreed in 2015 but not ratified yet, and the architecture hasn’t been built, and most of it is ready, we’re close. But again, the Paris Agreement is a replication and much of what’s in there is around the carbon pricing systems. Today, we have 64 carbon pricing instruments. Three, well, there may be between 64 and 67, that are operating in the world. And those carbon pricing systems, some of them have taxes embedded in them, right. I also want to mention that between 2015 and now, sort of like waiting for the architecture, and Article Six to be agreed upon, a lot of the corporations have taken it upon themselves to just start growing the voluntary market outside of the compliance markets. So we’ve seen a massive demand for carbon credits. And they continue to grow in the last three years as well. And in addition to that, the response has been corporate commitments to so called net zero emissions targets. So we see companies like Microsoft and Amazon, a lot of the airlines and big multinationals saying we’re going to be net zero by 2050, or we’re going to do this pledge. But in order for them to get to net zero, they buy offset so the net and the net zero is not is not zero emissions. The net means that they buy offsets through the voluntary markets that are really not regulated and then they can sort of subtract those on their balance sheet to zero, and say that they’re net zero. Now the public often just assumes that that means that it’s green, and that it’s okay and carbon neutral. But that’s not what’s happening here. So we’ll see this as well, in the lead up to Glasgow that there’s this task force for ramping up that sort of commitments, and for ramping up the voluntary markets. And we’ve seen, I think it was 2019, that there’s dominance in the voluntary market, that really quickly rose. So these are some of the other things that we’re seeing, building quite quickly and I just wanted to mention those things as well. The other part that we’re looking at is that underneath the umbrella of net zero emissions, the offsets are coming in two major forms. One is what’s called nature based solutions. And nature based solutions is just a new sort of fancy term, to include soil offsets, land based offsets, like forest offset agriculture offsets, so called climate smart agriculture, ocean offsets, and again that argument that this is a different carbon cycle and you can’t just plant a tree and say that that’s going to undo the violence of fossil fuel extraction. And then on the other side, we have carbon capture.
A: Yeah, I’m just wondering, at this point, it might be even a silly question. But do you see any redeeming qualities to these programs at all?
T: Well, no, I think that these programs are a real distraction from the hard work that we need to be doing. And make no mistake about it, many communities around the world are already doing that hard work. You know, 80% of the biodiversity on the planet is in Indigenous peoples territories. And without that, I think that we already would have seen a massive planet collapse. So shoring up and listening and following the leadership of indigenous peoples that are doing the hard work, this is hard work that biodiversity exists, not because they’re doing nothing with it, but because there’s Indigenous traditional knowledge that goes back for 1000s of years, that understands how to live and do that work that labor, that hard work. And ultimately, the UN is not listening to that. We are not listening to that. And there’s a schism and a divide and an understanding between, call it, the colonized part of the world or modernity and an Indigenous traditional knowledge. And until that is shifted, we will continue to see programs like these under these capitalist, patriarchal, colonialist schemes that are way, way, way off of what we need to be seeing. So no, I don’t see a carbon pricing being redeemable or fixable, or tweakable. I see it as a massive distraction. And we’ve been watching this unfold, many of us have been watching this unfold, for two and a half decades. They’ve had enough time to try to make it work. It’s time to shift gears now, because we don’t have time for this. We don’t have time for techno fixes like geo-engineering or for ramping up more carbon pricing and adding more taxation schemes or nested schemes or folding in different schemes that are fundamentally flawed. What we need is honestly, I would say the number one place to start here besides listening to Indigenous leadership, and embracing Indigenous traditional knowledge is fossil fuel subsidies pulled across the board, across the world. Fossil fuel corporations should not be subsidized. The IMF estimated a few years ago that fossil fuel subsidies are something like $3.5 trillion to continue extracting and various forms of subsidies. And that’s really a starting place. We shouldn’t be talking about carbon taxes when fossil fuel corporations are subsidized by public funds and other types of investment
MS: Yeah, I’m very curious to hear if you could speak a little bit about why you think carbon pricing still has become such a prominent, or like such a focus of climate politics, and what role corporations maybe have had in this.
T: You know, even back in the 1990s, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, they weren’t just at the table. They had a hand in building the markets, and they’ve been in the game all the way along. And having the hand and building the architecture for it they’ve found ways to make money off of it, and to delay and distract so that they can continue extracting. So their business model in many ways depends on this. It depends on carbon pricing. So if you have the most powerful corporations in the world, that are benefiting from a system like carbon pricing, of course, they’re going to say that it’s effective, because they, have to have it in order to continue extracting. It’s also so built up now, there are so many corporations and the voluntary markets and the compliance markets that depend on this going. I think there’s also a lot of ego involved. You know admitting defeat, patriarchy doesn’t really allow for that in many ways. And this is very much ran by a very sort of patriarchal business, sort of bro system, as well, and they’re not ready to admit defeat. And they make money, especially the carbon offsetter and the brokers and the carbon managers. And a lot of the conservation NGOs make a lot of money off of this. So many of the conservation NGOs, huge part of their income is from setting up and managing offset programs. Yeah, they now have it become a dependency model for some.
MS: Considering that our podcast is particularly focused on Shell, I was curious if you could speak a little bit to the relationship of Shell to carbon pricing and if you would be able to give some examples how Shell has also profited from carbon pricing.
T: So as I mentioned, Shell’s been in the game for decades. They’re one of the original architects and pushers. And they have an entire trading system, where they even trade with themselves, with some of their corporations and subsidiaries in the Global South who are in the CDM. They’ll even buy credits from their own subsidiaries in the Global South. So a lot of activities are questionable, I will say. But most recently, Shell has also followed the trend or been an original pusher for this net zero emissions targets and they made a net zero plan for 2050, like many of the other multinational corporations, that I mentioned earlier, includes all of these false solutions. False solutions like the EGG and soil offsets that I mentioned, and they’ve been involved in all of the false solutions inside of the clean development mechanism since day one. But most recently, they’ve sort of started to double down and focus on what are called nature based solutions. Nature based solutions is a term that includes pretty much any of the land based and ocean based offsets. So carbon farming, carbon smart agriculture, soil offsets, forest offsets all of it. But in about 2019 Royal Dutch Shell invested $300 million into projects through its nature based solutions unit and that’s not a lot of money for them. Let’s be clear, it’s not a lot. But it was really to basically jump start their NBS, their nature based solutions unit. One example of a project that they acquired is called Australia Select Carbon and they do so called quote, unquote Carbon Farming and they are quote, unquote Carbon Farming specialists. Most of that’s from cattle ranching in Australia. Select carbon currently are or they we’re running about 70 projects, covering about 9 million hectar’s. Now that is a lot of land. And how that works is that they sell the credits as Australian carbon credit unit or the ACC EU, this is in the voluntary emissions reductions farm market. So they sell those in the voluntary markets and Shell then can sell those offsets from their new acquired cattle ranching from tweaking the cattle ranching a little bit, doing a little bit of different land practices. Or manage the cattle in slightly different ways to say that they’re reducing emissions. They can sell those then into the voluntary market as well as using it in what they call green tariffs programs to eg electricity customers, much like in the UK and the Netherlands. And customers can then say, yeah, I want green electricity and tick a box, and then some of that money that will be funneled back into the nature based solutions unit. But we have a lot of questions. A, we understand that these are different carbon cycles and fundamentally, this is a flawed idea. But secondly, we have a lot of questions about land grabbing and land dispossession. I have a lot of questions about why they’re choosing certain lands to buy up and manage. Is there oil underneath these lands? And also how is this impacting different communities, be it the Aboriginal communities or other communities near these 9 million hector’s and these other chunks of land. And, again, this is the sort of precursor to something that could go on for years under NBS. There is a recent sign on letter that’s going around, that was initiated from the World Rain Forest movement, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Indigenous Climate Action and a few others around the world, who are calling out nature based solutions as nature based dispossession and really calling the UN and other development agencies to stop this before it grows any bigger. And Shell has been absolutely at the forefront of pushing this.
A: Thanks, Tamara, do you have any comments, any examples of places that land grabbing has taken place as part of these nature based solutions?
T: You know, a lot of that research is happening now. But again, because it’s sort of folded into the REDD model or similar in some ways, to a REDD model, we can look at REDD projects as an as examples of how this has functioned and carbon forest offsets as well. I mentioned earlier that 80% of the world’s biodiversity is in indigenous peoples territories. And that makes indigenous peoples targets for the carbon managers and the carbon brokers. And with indigenous peoples being targeted we’ve seen all kinds of dodgy things. We’ve seen, here in the United States, for example, or in Turtle Island neighboring communities being bribed. We’ve seen examples of carbon managers sneaking into Indigenous People’s territories to measure their trees without permission. We’ve seen horrific examples of non consensual agreements being pushed on tribes and tribal governments without full membership being involved. Sneakily getting this onto agendas and then saying that they’re not on agendas, and then they come on to tribal agendas, and they get pushed without free prior and informed consent. We’ve seen communities not being told everything that they need to know about where the credits are going, who the credits are going to be bought by, and who the credits are being sold to. So many communities are just completely unaware that the credits are being sold on to polluting industries that impact other indigenous communities elsewhere. They’re not given the full amount of information and this is a violation of Indigenous rights underneath the United Nations. And it’s not being investigated enough at all. So those are just a few examples. If we look at that as the martyrs and sort of model. And they are slightly different, the models are slightly different, I’m not saying that REDD is the same, but it’s very similar in terms of how land grabbing and other ways are working. But because there has been so much push back by Indigenous organizations the nature based solutions scheme is a way to distract from REDD and do something else. It’s sort of a rebranding and an expansion into farming, soils and EGG as well. So, we have a lot of communities that reach out to us, including in Ecuador, and Colombia and Brazil and other places, who are impacted by not getting enough information from a lot of the carbon brokers that are out there, that are trying to get access to lands and territories that they just should not be on to begin with. Also, these are standing processor, these are ancient forests, they have real meaning beyond just the carbon that’s in the trees. This goes much deeper into other forms of knowledge. And they’re protected, and worked with and lived with in ways that are complex, and different types of knowledges. Indigenous peoples are not the drivers of deforestation, and they certainly shouldn’t be the ones targeted. If we’re really serious about protecting biodiversity, and forests, then Indigenous peoples are not the problem. It doesn’t make any sense. Then go and target big EGG and Big Pharma, and big logging corporations. Those are the drivers of deforestation, certainly not Indigenous peoples.
MS: Yeah, thank you, Tamra, I really appreciate your analysis that really takes into account social justice issues. Because I feel personally so often when we talk about the climate crisis, it’s being reduced to this issue of reducing CO2. So yeah, really, thank you for bringing in that perspective. Could you tell us a bit more about how you think carbon pricing programs might affect communities differently?
T: Certainly, if we look at the communities that are most impacted by climate change, and and if we look at the communities most impacted by carbon pricing programs, like offset programs, we definitely see that that the colonial capitalist racism is alive and well, and impacting those communities first and foremost. So in the United States, no question, communities of Color, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color are impacted first and most and we’ve known that for decades. But it’s this double impact because it’s not just living next to oil refineries, and fracking, and gas. It’s, it’s also the social implications that come along with that. We have a campaign on missing and murdered Indigenous women and Indigenous peoples because next to the fracking in the oil industry, man camps are set up because they need laborers, right? And they’re far away from, the laborers come, they’re far away from their families, they drink and there are these, these other social implications. And Indigenous women go missing something like eight times more than any other women in this country, and are never found. The social implications and the racism that it’s connected to extractive industries is really around direct violence. It’s around cultural violence. It’s around social violence, indirect violence as well and this is perpetuated through programs like carbon pricing that continue to keep the wheels on capitalism inside of this racist colonial system that pretends to address climate change, but ultimately, masks the fact that it allows the indirect cultural and direct violence to continue unabated.
MS: Thank you Tamra. Switching the focus back to Shell I was wondering, considering that carbon pricing schemes are not yet operational on a global scale, what are the chances that we can actually change the business of a multinational corporation such as Shell with so many subsidiaries all over the world through carbon pricing?
T: Well, in many ways, carbon pricing is operating globally. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s over 65 operating carbon pricing initiatives in different countries around the world. That’s a lot and this is due to be ramped up even more. And Shell again, is very much behind it. So part of their business model relies on the guarantee that they can continue extracting, and claiming that they’re the ones doing good through the trading and the expansion of nature based solutions, and net zero emissions targets and all of it. But ultimately, again, this isn’t, this isn’t the solution, this isn’t the way forward. The way forward is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Even the IPCC has admitted that very clearly. This is the moment in history, we have a choice right now. We can continue how we’re going with carbon pricing systems as the beacon in the way that we follow and the earth continue to collapse. Or we can go a different way and we can start keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Ramping down these industries and using the fossil fuel subsidies, the trillions of dollars, and start to invest in just transition, start to push that money into communities of color, and communities around the world in the Global South that desperately need it. And not in big mega development projects but in small scale stuff, like things that communities really need to survive, especially communities impacted by hurricanes, and wildfires, and all of the other impacts. And yes, there are adaptation programs inside the UN and some of them are doing some good things. But many of the other ones, again, are being touted underneath these same types of development, this type of development regime that perpetuates the same type of colonial capitalist systems in the Global South, that continue pulling us in the wrong direction. So once again, I will say, we have to just admit that carbon pricing has not functioned. It’s not functioning, it has not reduced emissions, and it’s been over two decades, we do not have time to wait and see if this experiment can work anymore. Those of us that oppose it, we’ve done rigorous analysis, and robust research and many different frameworks to see how these types of programs are fundamentally flawed.
A: Yeah, so I’m curious if we stop carbon pricing mechanisms, if we stop subsidies, and invest in indigenous communities and like local BIPoC communities, especially those who have been impacted by fossil fuel production, is that enough to get to a future beyond Shell, to get to a future beyond fossil fuel companies? I’m wondering Tamra what your perspective on that is. Is that enough?
T: I think that I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if that’s enough. I think we need to see also a paradigm shift and a real effort towards building global solidarity as well. I think there was a moment in the late 90s, early 2000s, where we really saw a lot of a lot of conversations around global solidarity building and what that would look like. I think we need something similar again. This has to be people led. This has to be led by the grassroots because even right now in the United States, what I’ve been seeing in real time is that when the leadership is not heard from the front line community, from the people on the front lines, from the Black and Indigenous and people of color, and underserved, and low income communities, when their voices are not foregrounded, and taken very seriously in terms of solutions and where this needs to move, then the frameworks are set up don’t include them, they become different frameworks. And those frameworks continue really rapidly without them. And even if then the voices and the people, they become used and exploited to try to fix those frameworks that exclude them and that is not the way. So I can’t say what is going to happen. I just know for certain that there are incredible communities in the world that are doing so much work already. From the Via Campesina to Indigenous communities, who are doing the hard work on their territories to some of the most inspiring organizations around the world that support communities that have real answers and solutions, and other organizations that are coming up with interesting and creative ways to degrow the economy, to degrow the capitalist economy. There are real solutions, but these are not the ones that are heard at the UN. These are not the systems that are being rolled out and I don’t think we need to ask why. This is a question of power, ultimately, and the power and whether we’re talking about the development paradigm, or multinational corporation power inside of a neoliberal capitalist system, there is a lot of power and money at stake. And those businesses, those corporations are going to do what they can to maintain that power, and keep fossil fuels coming out of the ground until they absolutely are stopped. Carbon pricing ensures that extractivism continues.
MS: Thank you so much Tamra, again, for bringing in this perspective that also acknowledges the power that plays into this into in this decision making process of like, what solutions we are voting into or opting into. With this I slowly would like to wrap up our session and I was wondering, I know you are also an activist, and I was wondering if there any sort of action call outs or other things you would like to share with us?
T: We’re working on so many different aspects, from calling out net zero, not being really being zero at all and that’s something that we’re seeing, and that we’re trying to call out, there’s a whole bunch of different sign on letters and different things coming to play, the nature based solutions as well. You can find all of these types of call outs on the Indigenous Environmental Network website at ienearth.org. But I also want to say that at the COP in Glasgow coming up, we’re going to set up a really cool radio and podcast system, that is Indigenous lead. So in Glasgow itself, we’re going to set up a whole system of FM radio transmitters but we’re also going to digitize it and have daily updates and we’re working with the COP 26 coalition on that and many other different activist organizations are involved in all of this and will have like just a ton of information from what’s happening on the inside of the COP on a daily basis to what’s happening on outside on the streets and different actions and activists and frontline communities who are going and will be representing, and throwing down and telling their stories and sharing their just, they’re bold, and actions and also songs and celebrations. So definitely keep your eye out for the Indigenous rising and the Indigenous led podcasts and radio that that’s going to be coming out of Glasgow. And any of the announcements on actions and different things that’s the place to go to find it. And that’s going to be a dynamic and exciting space. So we really look forward to that coming up.
MS: Yeah, that sounds absolutely great. And yeah, maybe we will meet each other very again. For now, I yeah, I just would like to thank you for your contribution for talking to us has been really insightful.
A: Thanks so much for all your insights on the pitfalls of carbon pricing, and specifically its impacts on Indigenous and colonized communities, Tamra. We also appreciate your input on how the power of corporations plays into shaping our decisions about what climate strategies we choose to pursue! To our listeners: IEN has a lot of cool actions going on during the COP26 in Glasgow right now. Tamra shared these with us and we want to share with you, so you can support! You can find petitions at www.ienearth.org, calling out net zero goals as missing the target, and calling out as nature-based solutions as false solutions. We will post these in the show notes, so make sure you sign on to those letters! Also, IEN, is collaborating with other organizations to broadcast daily on radio and via podcast from actions and events at the COP, giving a platform to Indigenous voices there. So check out their website for their podcast and radio channel Indigenous Rising, and support by listening and sharing!