Environmental Defense Offices Occupied By Climate Activists

WASHINGTON, DC, December 2, 2008 (ENS) – Grassroots climate activists took over the Washington, DC office of the nonprofit group Environmental Defense Monday. Led by Dr. Rachel Smolker, daughter of one of the group’s founders, the late Robert Smolker, the 20 activists were protesting Environmental Defense’s support of carbon trading as a solution to global warming.

Some of the demonstrators rearranged furniture in the office, to dramatize how marketing carbon is “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Others held signs reading “Keep the cap, ditch the trade” and “Carbon trading is an environmental offense.” They strung yellow tape around the office to simulate a crime scene and pasted corporate logos on the walls and glass doors.

Dr. Smolker of Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition read a statement, saying, “My father was one of the founders of this organization, which sadly I am now ashamed of.”

“The Kyoto Protocol, the European Emissions Trading Scheme and virtually every other initiative for reducing emissions have adopted their market approaches. So far they have utterly failed, serving only to provide huge profits to the world’s most polluting industries,” she said. “Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear my father rolling over in his grave.”

The protest was timed to coincide with the opening of the United Nations annual climate change conference in Poznan, Poland, which is negotiating a successor agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The activists represent four groups – Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition, Rising Tide North America and Rising Tide Ecuador.

In a statement, the protesters said that they had targeted Environmental Defense, one of the largest environmental organizations in the world, “because of the organization’s key role in promoting the discredited approach of carbon trading as a solution to climate change.”

Protesters demonstrate at the Washington, DC
office of Environmental Defense. December
1, 2008 (Photo courtesy Rising Tide
North America)

Environmental Defense has been instrumental in establishing the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a business consortium including Duke Energy, Shell, BP, DuPont, and Dow Chemical, which advocates for a cap and trade system with what the activists call “extremely weak emissions reductions.”

They awarded Environmental Defense the “Corporate Greenwash Award,” a three foot tall green paintbrush.

“We think this award is appropriate since Environmental Defense spends more time painting polluters green than actually defending the environment,” said Matt Wallace of Rising Tide North America.

Leo Cerda, an indigenous activist with Rising Tide Ecuador said, “ED wants to turn the atmosphere and forests into private property, and then give it away to the most polluting industries in the form of pollution allowances that can be bought and sold. Not only is this an ineffective way to control emissions, it is also a disaster for the poor and indigenous peoples who are not party to these markets and are most impacted by climate change.”

Tony Kreindler, a spokesman for Environmental Defense downplayed the protest action. “The folks that were here and weren’t otherwise working sat and listened to their statement in a conference room. They came in, they delivered a statement, they left,” he said.

“Everyone has their own opinions on the best way to deal with climate change,” said Kreindler. “We believe that trading makes sense because you’re meeting the cap at the lowest cost possible. It’s a commonsense approach. It’s always been our position, and it won’t change because of this incident.”

Dr. Rachel Smolker’s father, the late Robert E. Smolker, was a professor at New York’s Stony Brook University, an ornithologist, an environmentalist involved in local government, and one of the founders of Environmental Defense Fund.

The group is headquartered in New York City, with offices nationwide, and scientists and policy specialists working worldwide. It is directed by Fred Krupp who has served as its president since 1984.

Krupp has said that he supports a carbon cap, with steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and a system that allows trading in permits to emit carbon dioxide.

Krupp, author of the book “Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming,” said the model for the cap-and-trade system should be based on the Clean Air Act of 1990.

“I think that will transform the economic opportunities out there and I think the Clean Air Act provides the model,” Krupp said in March. “And states that want to have a deeper cut should be allowed to, just like in the Clean Air Act where California is able to set a deeper reduction and other states can go along if they want.”

The Clean Air Act set up an emissions trading program to limit several pollutants, primarily sulfur dioxide – a main pollutant blamed for acid rain.

Carbon dioxide emissions are traded under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, a legally binding system, and voluntarily in the United States on the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Several regional organizations of U.S. states are in various stages of establishing mandatory carbon markets. The farthest along is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, under which 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will cap and then reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector 10 percent by 2018. The first RGGI CO2 allowance auction was held in September and the second auction is scheduled for December 17. Rachel: I felt it was necessary because I feel very strongly that market-based approaches to dealing with climate change are misguided and damaging. Arnold Sch. last week had global climate summit, rally conveneing against AB32 In Poznzn a growing group of people opposing these issues – market based approaches – the idea that you can offset emissions by making biodiversity protection as an offset – can purchase protection in another place – by planting trees in an offset. What that often means for people in the global south is that there are tree plantation planted on their lands – their lands are occupied by an offset. ?Feeling in general that CC must be dealt with by putting justice and equity as a center piece. problem created by industrialized countries in the north overconsuming and over polluting – we need to address Favored solution: Discussions ongoing about REDD – finance forest protection – many people have talked about, when land rights are secured indigenous people most reliable stewards of those forests. Many people feed the most fundamental thing that can happen. Without that, concern money that’s funneled into a REDD type of mechanism will benefit those who do illegal logging, and forest products traders. With EDF, USCAP these companies love a cliamte trading approach to deal with climate change. The reason that they love it, where it’s been tried as in the EU it’s been profited to the most polluting industries. Must shift subsidies out of fossil fuel industry to renewable energy industries. World Bank serves as a broker for forest protection Would favor a carbon tax over carbon marketing. Rachel: rsmolker@globaljusticeecology.org

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