Merchants of Doubt Stop Selling?

According to the Guardian’s article, “World’s to PR companies rule out working with climate deniers,” there has been a recent shift in the role PR companies have in creating climate change doubt. After reading Merchants of Doubt we all know the importance PR companies, along with several other actors, have had in making action on climate change difficult. The level of certainty within the scientific community has been high enough, in my opinion, to warrant wide-scale public fear and pressure to demand immediate and strong action to mitigate climate change for decades now. However, this level of certainty is still not reflected in the mainstream media or consciousness. This is in large part because of misinformation campaigns, driven by savvy PR firms, that slam real facts, and misinterpret reasonable amounts of uncertainty about the various aspects of climate change from the science to the economics of it.

Yet, we are perhaps witnessing a change in the willingness of these companies to partake in merchandizing doubt, even if marginal. The Guardian and the Climate Investigations Center (an organization that monitors and researches misinformation campaigns surrounding climate change) acquired data through surveys sent to these companies. According to the authors of the article, Suzanne Goldenberg and Nishad Karim, “Now a number of the top 25 global PR firms have told the Guardian they will not represent clients who deny man-made climate change, or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Companies include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners” (Goldenberg).  This moral and political switch is very exciting and hopeful to a certain extent.

However, the research collected should be taken with a fair amount of skepticism and a watchful eye of potential green washing by these companies. To begin the Guardian and Climate Investigations Center (CIC) did not appear to get the full picture of the “top PR Companies” as the title suggests; less than half responded to them including companies with a history of both environmental and climate change disinformation campaigns.  Furthermore, it was a survey, not necessarily research into each individual firm’s internal policies, client list and current and past campaigns. This means the firms only offered what information they want the media and watchdogs to know. These are PR firms, they are experts in creating the appearance they want, while masking what they don’t want known or focused on. Kert Davies, the founder of CIC acknowledges this saying, “They pretend they are above the fray and they are not involved, and yet they are the ones designing ad campaigns, designing lobbying campaigns, and designing the messages their clients want to convey around climate change ” (Goldenberg).

So while this article can, and perhaps should, be taken with a healthy dose of cynicism it got me thinking about some hopeful outcomes.  As we have learned in class one of the key roles of transnational networks is regulation. This is often taken in the form of an organization or network creating a certifiable standards, benchmarks or rules that encourage voluntary participation of companies. These certifications can be highly credible and a good way to motivate companies to take action and become accountable for their current actions. I think that if a transnational network of PR firms set a standard that committed them to only represent climate positive companies it has the potential to increase the momentum founding this article. While the CIC is a good start, from what I can tell, a more legitimate actor with similar goals, would be necessary for this type of regulation to succeed.

 

Work Cited:

Goldenberg, Suzanne , and Nishad Karim. “Environment Climate change World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers.” The Guardian. N.p., 4 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/aug/04/worlds-top-pr-companies-rule-out-working-with-climate-deniers>.

Transnational Network: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance

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The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) is a transnational network involved in climate change governance through an intersectional approach involving a diverse range of actors. Conservation International and a collection of five non-governmental organizations comprising its membership, including CARE and the Rainforest Alliance, founded the network in 2003.[i] In addition to these members the CCBA has an advising group of international research institutions (three in total, including the World Agroforestry Center) and the donors to the network (including philanthropic foundations and corporations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and British Petroleum).[ii],[iii] The goal of this alliance is to validate and verify projects that attempt to mitigate climate change through land management while positively serving the native population of that area, from the project’s conception throughout its implementation.[iv] CCBA does this through creating a set of Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standards that generates reliable carbon credits. The CCBA acts as a transnational governing force rather effectively by setting a reputable and premium standard to assist in the regulation of the global carbon market.

In the international climate change discussion, ideas of equity and justice are often raised, and so is the case when discussing issues of land use. The way land is used has huge implications for global climate change; it can be a large contributing factor to emissions through activities such as deforestation or can aid in mitigation through activities such as conservation of biodiversity. Plans of mitigation through “carbon forestry” raised concerns that these projects would inevitably be unjust to native communities because of the high potential of consequences such as displacement of communities.[v] The foundation of CCBA and the CCB standards was to address these concerns in a meaningful way. The creation of CCBA dealt with this issue by not only creating a set of standards that would prohibit adverse effects of land use mitigation projects on native peoples but would also promote and require positive gains or, “co-benefits” for both the community and the environment in projects they validated.[vi]

The CCBA is able to promote and instigate these net positive projects through its CCB label. This is a process that involves a certification of “validation” that is an acknowledgment that the project has been heavily analyzed, reviewed and decidedly fulfills the CCB standards.[vii] Validation builds support for the project that then makes implementation and success of the project more likely. After a project has been validated it is then “verified,” which enforces accountability to follow through on promises for co-benefits.[viii] When carbon credits have the CCB label, it signifies they have passed validation and verification and is a high quality credit to the buyer.[ix] A study by the Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Market showed that the investors and offset buyers were more likely to pay extra for the CCB label due to its multilateral approach and diverse range of benefits.[x] This positive reputation has gone hand in hard with increasing number of projects voluntarily seeking approval of CCB standards. In 2010 there were 19 validated projects and 21 in the process, however, over the course of the next three years there 70 projects total were validated, 19 undergoing validation, and 12 projects receiving the CCB label.[xi],[xii] The success of this process of transnational governance is illustrated by the estimated 8 million hectares of land conserved, 180,000 hectares of land restored, totaling roughly 40 million tons of CO2 emissions sequestered.[xiii] Presently, the number of CCB standards approved projects is, in the global picture, minimal. However, the fact these numbers have been increasing rapidly over the past few years eludes to a growing capacity of governing global climate change

 

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Overall, the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance and the resulting standards appears to be quite effective in achieving its goal of filling a governance function to regulate land use projects that claim to be equitable to communities, have net positive mitigation benefits for the climate and increase the biodiversity and ecology of the land. It has done so by establishing its network and certifications as a reputable marker of governance through its enforcement of accountability and transparency, while engaging market based solutions to global climate change.

 

This video is an example of the types of projects CCBA deals with.

 

 

Work Cited:

“About the CCBA” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.climate-standards.org/about-ccba/

 

Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing climate change. London: Routledge,             2010. Print.

 

“CCBA Fact Sheet” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.             Web. 30 Sept. 2014.                                                                                                                        https://s3.amazonaws.com/CCBA/CCB_Standards_FactSheet.pdf

 

“CCBA Standards.” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.climate-standards.org/ccb-standards/

 

Melo, Isabel, Esther Turnhout, and Bas Arts. “Integrating multiple benefits in             market-based climate mitigation schemes: The case of the Climate, Community             and Biodiversity certification scheme.” Environmental Science & Policy 35 (2014):             49-56. Web.

 

Wood, Rachel Godfrey. Carbon finance and pro-poor co-benefits: the gold standard                        and climate, community and biodiversity standards. London: Sustainable Markets             Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, 2011. Web.

 

 

[i] Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing climate change. London: Routledge,             2010. Print. Pg 65.

[ii] Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell.

[iii] “About the CCBA” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.climate-standards.org/about-ccba/

[iv] “CCBA Standards.” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.climate-standards.org/ccb-standards/

[v] Wood, Rachel Godfrey. Carbon finance and pro-poor co-benefits: the gold standard                        and climate, community and biodiversity standards. London: Sustainable Markets             Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, 2011. Web.

[vi] Wood, Rachel Godfrey.

[vii] “CCBA Standards.”

[viii] “CCBA Standards.”

[ix] “CCBA Fact Sheet” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.             Web. 30 Sept. 2014.                                                                                                                        https://s3.amazonaws.com/CCBA/CCB_Standards_FactSheet.pdf

[x] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

[xi] Wood, Rachel Godfrey.

[xii] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

[xiii] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

Transnational governance’s role in the Advancement of COICA’s Objectives

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International regimes function at a nation-state level in which geography and the divide of advanced vs. non-advanced states has intermittently led to limited global governance. An alternative approach to climate change governance is transnational networks for they are based on broad range of actors across boarders that act to address climate change issues (Bulkeley and Newell 2010).  A transnational network that has been effective in advancing its objectives in governing climate change is the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA 2014).

COICA’s objective is to protect the Amazon through the indigenous people’s involvement in the development of strategies to counteract the deterioration of their biosphere (Mato 2004). COICA’s alliance between Indigenous and global organizations called for: the protection of indigenous people’s social rights and territorial rights to the Amazon, the implementation of management and conservation programs and need for international assistance in the implementation process (COICA 2014).  The COICA transnational network has been successful in climate change governance due to the utilization of transnational governance mechanisms: information-sharing, regulation and implementation and capacity building (Bulkeley and Newell 2010).

COICA’s establishment of set objectives advanced the network in climate change governance for it unified indigenous groups and global organizations that shared the common interest of protecting the Amazon.  This information-sharing mechanism caused Indigenous groups from Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Surinam and Guyana and European Greens to create a formalized alliance in 1983 because of their shared agenda (Mato 2004).  The Indigenous communities wanted to be involved in climate change governance to voice their concerns about the Amazon. Rather than 1000 indigenous groups expressing their concerns about climate change, COICA was implemented to create a collective identity of indigenous concerns.  COICA’s effective voice advanced these objectives and it gave their concerns a unified voice that could easily be heard and shared (Mato 2004). This information-sharing mechanism resulted COICA’s ideas to spread and to gain affinity around the globe.

COICA’s regulation governance mechanism resulted in the continuous participation and the increase in membership in the network.  There is no juristic level in transnational networks, meaning that none of the agreements are binding (Bulkeley and Newell 2010).  However, COICA’s standards and benefits from the group dynamitic were able to maintain members from around the globe to participate in COICA.  According to theredddesk.org, the regulation governance of COICA is effective for it is able to keep thousands of indigenous communities existing in 9 countries involved in the alliance. This broad scope of people’s needs are consistent with COICA’s standards, consisting of: social movements, human rights institutions and climate negotiations.  The successful regulation mechanism has led to members of COICA to consist of voluntary public and private actors.

From the involvement of private and public actors, the implementation+ capacity-building mechanism allowed for diverse expertise in advancing COICA’s objectives.  The Indigenous people’s role was to generate the public’s interest and attention about the deterioration of the Amazon through information-sharing mechanism (Mato 2004). Whereas, the public actors were to be aware of the indigenous people’s rights in decision-making and speak on their behalf (Mato 2004).  For example, COICA and AIDSEP got the Peruvian government to agree to “facilitate indigenous people’s participation in COP20”.  According to International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs, an indigenous preparatory conference between the COICA and the Peruvian government will take place November 28th– 30th. Due to utilization of different governance resources COICA was able to generate change in the governance negotiations.  Although REDD+ is not actually supported by COICA, the fact that an agreement exists indicates that the idea of preserving the amazon had infiltrated climate change negotiations.  Instead of REDD+, COICA has created the Indigenous REDD+ Alternative, which is directed towards the preservation of indigenous territories and the incorporation of forest services. The implementation and capacity-building mechanism has led to large advancements in the front against the amazon’s deterioration.

Compared to International Regimes, transnational networks play and have played a distinctive role in governing climate change. COICA’s involvement with indigenous groups and global agents promoted the advancement of its objectives towards protecting the amazon and its indigenous inhabitants.  The role in which information-sharing, regulation and implementation and building-capacity mechanisms have contributed to the success of COICA in climate governance is clearly evident.

Sources

“Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA).” The REDD Desk. Global Canopy, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

Mato, Daniel. “Transnational networks of global and local production of representations of ideas of civil society actors.” Policy citizenship and civil society in times of globalization (2004): 67-93.

“UNFCCC: The Road towards COP 20 in Lima.” International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). IWGIA, 26 June 2014. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing Climate Change. London: Routledge, 2010. Print.