Plantar S.A. Reflorestamentos, a pig-iron and plantation company operating in Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais, has been trying hard to get money through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The company’s activities involving large scale planting of non-native eucalyptus trees – which are burnt to make charcoal that is then used for the company’s pig iron operations – have illegally dispossessed many people of their land, destroyed jobs and livelihoods, dried up and polluted local water supplies, depleted soils and the biodiversity of the native cerrado biome, threatened the health of local people, and exploited labour under appalling conditions (see WRM Bulletin Nº 145).
Already in 2004, Plantar S.A. applied for a 1.5 million CERs (certified emission reductions) carbon credit transaction based on “the planting of forests”. CERs, equivalent in this case to approximately USD 25 million, are tradable permits that certify that emissions of greenhouse gases have been reduced by the project. Polluters somewhere else can buy those permits and so spare the effort to reduce their own emissions.
The argument was that the forested area in the state of Minas Gerais was rapidly shrinking, and that without the capital provided through carbon credits, the company would be unable to replant on the land where trees had been harvested for industrial use. However, Plantar has always planted and replanted trees on a massive scale and eventually the project didn’t get the approval.
In another try, Plantar reformulated the project and argued that it would have to burn coal if it did not receive the funds to (re)plant eucalyptus in Minas Gerais for the production of charcoal. Several social organisations opposed the Plantar project, which once again failed to be approved.
In mid-2009, Plantar resubmitted a reforestation project, linked to the iron ore methodology, to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board under the title “Cultivated Biomass as a Renewable Source of Energy for Pig Iron Production”. The project promises to grow “dedicated plantations” for the production of charcoal. If approved, the project would enable the company to get paid for doing what it has already been doing since 2000: planting and replanting eucalyptus on a massive scale for industrial use.
A group of individuals, organizations, movements and networks representing Brazilian society, together with international supporters from the North and South, have denounced and opposed the project of Plantar S.A.
In a letter sent by the organisations to the members of the CDM Executive Board they claim that “a new reworking of the Plantar CDM project promises to set aside eucalyptus plantations on the company’s own land for the production of vegetable coal, under the false claim of producing ‘renewable biomass’. The company is attempting to obtain carbon credits for trees it has already been planting since 2000, which proves that it is not ‘adding’ anything to its usual activities. Although classified as ‘carbon neutral’, Plantar’s operations will do nothing to neutralize the carbon dioxide emissions produced through its transportation and logistical operations and above all the burning of its own wood in charcoal ovens, not to mention the contamination caused by the pig iron industry and the production and use of automobiles, to which the bulk of production is devoted.”
The signatories state that “As far as we are concerned, Plantar S.A.’s large-scale, chemical-intensive plantations of fast-growing eucalyptus trees and their subsequent burning can in no way be considered a mechanism for climate justice.”
On the contrary, they stress that “the contamination and disappearance of rivers and streams; the forced displacement of peasant farmers, indigenous forest-dwelling communities and geraiszeiros (inhabitants of the Cerrado savannah ecosystem); the land disputes over agrarian reform measures and with quilombola (Afro-Brazilian) communities fighting to recover their ancestral territory (as is currently the case in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo); the destruction of native forest in the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest regions and its replacement with plantations of a single, exotic tree species; the repression, criminalization and intimidation of local community leaders and resistance movements; the threat to food security in areas around eucalyptus plantations; outsourcing, precarious work conditions and high rates of work-related accidents and disease (as amply documented by many sources) – all of these are essential elements that should be taken into consideration and lead the CDM Executive Board to reject Plantar S.A.’s project proposal once again.”
The complete letter is available at:http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Brazil/LetterPlantarCDM.pdf