No to Nature-Based Solutions Dispossessions!

27 September 2021 – Big climate polluters like Shell and Nestlé are peddling a dangerous scam. They say they canbring their greenhouse gas emissions down to zero and keep burning fossil fuels, mine more ofthe planet, and increase industrial meat and dairy production. They call this reducing emissionsto “net-zero”. Planting trees, protecting forests and tweaking industrial farming practices, theyclaim, will store enough extra carbon in plants and the soil to cancel out the greenhouse gasemissions they pump into the atmosphere.

What corporations and big conservation groups call “nature-based solutions” is a dangerous distraction. Their marketing concept is dressed up with unproven and flawed data and the claimthat the idea can provide 37 percent of reductions in CO2 by 2030. More and more corporations,from Total to Microsoft to Unilever, are making “nature-based solutions” the core of theirclimate action plans while the conservation industry taps into corporate “nature-basedsolutions” funding to expand their control over forests.

From the conservation industry’s perspective, the idea is simple: corporations pay them to enclose forests or plant trees on land they claim is “degraded” and which could absorb more carbon if restored. In return, the corporations claim that the climate damage from their ongoing greenhouse gas emissions is being cancelled out. Often, a document referred to as a carbon credit is used to market this offsetting claim.

When corporations and big conservation groups talk about “nature”, they mean enclosed spaces devoid of people. They mean protected areas guarded by armed rangers, tree plantations andlarge monoculture farms. Their “nature” is incompatible with nature understood as territory, asa life space inseparable from the cultures, food systems and livelihoods of the communities whocare for it and who see themselves as intrinsic parts of it. What’s more, behind a marketingfront of genuine agroecology and natural regeneration initiatives, backers of “nature-basedsolutions” are preparing to advance yet more harmful practices such as monoculture tree plantations and industrial agriculture.

“Nature-based solutions” are thus not a solution, they are a scam. The purported solutions willresult in “nature-based dispossessions” because they will enclose the remaining living spaces ofIndigenous Peoples, peasants and other forest-dependent communities and reduce “nature” toa service provider for offsetting corporations’ pollution and to protect the profits of thosecorporations most responsible for climate chaos. Indigenous Peoples, peasants and other forest-dependent communities whose territories are being enclosed will face more violence, more restrictions on their use of their lands and more outside control over their territories.

“Nature-based solutions” are a repeat of the failed REDD+ tree planting and forest conservation schemes that the same conservation groups have been promoting for the past 15 years. REDD+ has done nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions or reign in the big food andagribusiness companies driving deforestation. Its enduring legacy, however, is the loss of landsand forests for peasant and forest-based communities and heavy restrictions on how they canuse their land. REDD+ has also birthed an industry of “sustainability and safeguards” consultants and project proponents who profit from declaring REDD+ projects ‘sustainable’, despite the violations of rights that such projects cause. The proponents of “nature-based solutions” are now utilising the same tactics of certification schemes and safeguards to deflect criticism and toobscure their corporate take-over of community lands and forests.The companies with “nature-based solutions” in their climate action plans intend to increase their production of highly polluting products. In the flawed logic of corporate “nature-based solutions”, more pollution means that corporations will need to claim more land as their carbon storage facility; it will mean more dispossessions and more restrictions on peasant farming andcommunity use of their territories. It will also mean even more corporate control over lands andforests. The Italian energy company Eni says by 2050 it will still be using fossil fuels to generate 90% ofits energy. To offset these emissions, it will have to claim the entire potential of all the forests inItaly to absorb carbon – 8 million hectares for Eni’s “net-zero” claim! According to the NGOOxfam, the net zero targets of just four of the big oil and gas corporations (Shell, BP, Total andEni) alone could require an area of land twice the size of the UK. That is just a couple of the bigenergy companies. The “net-zero” plan of world’s largest food company, Nestlé, could require4.4 million hectares of land per year for offsets. And the plans of Big Tech companies likeMicrosoft and Amazon are also based on enclosure of similarly large areas of land.

Corporations and the large conservation NGOs are peddling this latest false corporate solutionnot just in the climate talks; they are also pushing the idea into governmental meetings of theUN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In connection with the Food Systems Summit inSeptember 2021, “Nature positive production” is being used as a similar concept to NBS tofurther industrialise agriculture and expand corporate control. If these attempts are successful,the result will be more climate chaos and an even quicker loss of biodiversity, whilecorporations continue to profit from destruction and the burning of fossil carbon.

Governments need to know that there is a growing movement of frontline communities, organisations and activists for climate justice. The signatories of this statement will standtogether to resist attempts to grab peoples’ territories for nature-based dispossessions and carbon offsetting.

We call on climate, environmental and social justice movements to unequivocally reject“nature-based solutions” and all offset schemes. Such schemes are not designed to address theclimate crisis. Their primary function is to buy another decade or two of unrestrained corporateprofiteering from fossil carbon extraction and industrial agriculture while increasing outsidecontrol over community territories. Climate neutrality amounts to little more than paper reductions, achieved through creative book-keeping and unverifiable claims to have prevented hypothetical emissions. Time has run out for such distractions. Only a rapid, time-bound plan toleaving the remaining coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground and industrial agricultureoverhauled will avert catastrophic climate chaos.

Frontline communities opposed to fossil fuel extraction, pipelines, mines, plantations and otherextractive industry projects are showing the way. Opposition to “nature-based solutions” andcommunity resistance against the destruction of underground carbon deposits, corporatemining and agroindustry must be understood as part of the same larger struggle to stop thecorporate take-over of community territories.

Grassroots communities are also at the forefront of struggles for food sovereignty andagroecology which are necessary to resolving the manifold crisis afflicting the planet. Werecognize and support the struggles led by grassroots communities for control over theterritories on which they depend, today and in the future.

It is time to stand together!

Join us! Reject nature-based solutions as a new form of corporate land grabbing and greenwashing!

Say NO to nature-based dispossessions!

Click here to sign the statement and to see the list of current signatories.