THE CARBON HUNTERS
Airdate: May 11, 2010
Brazil: The Carbon Hunters
Guatemala: In the Shadow of the Raid
Uganda: Out of the Wild
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE/World, three Stories from a Small Planet.
First, in Brazil...
Lewis: ...it will be $3 trillion market
Trading pollution... for trees.
Morris: ...if you think about biodiversity...it just makes sense
Forests, Mark on boat
In a joint project with the Center for Investigative Reporting, correspondent Mark Schapiro investigates the coming international market in carbon....
And its impact on the ground.
Alt: ..and new questions it's raising on the ground.
Braga: you want to take our jobs to save the trees?
Braga: What we know in Brazil...the forests belong to our people.
ANNOUNCER: Then, in Guatemala....
A town's economic lifeline is severed ...
Footage of Raid
The immigration raid in Postville, Iowa was the biggest in U.S. history
And its/the impact is felt on both sides of the border.
SOT: You take 400 jobs out of a town of 2000 people, and it hurts.
ANNOUNCER: And finally in Uganda...
New dangerous viruses that can jump back and forth between humans and the great apes.
Dr. Kalem-zikusoka: you can't protect the gorillas if you don't think about the people living around the park who have very little health care.
Mountains and clouds wide shot
Title: "The Carbon Hunters"
Title: "Reported by Mark Schapiro"
Mark in the boat
Time is a fiction, they say, in this remote corner of Brazil's Atlantic Coast.
Coming around the bend in the river
An ancient forest seemingly unspoiled by modern life...beyond the reach of men, machines, and markets...
rack focus of spider
But look closer, and you'll see that something very different is happening here.
Open up for sounds of mark headed into the woods
I'm tracking a group of hunters.
They're after something that has become one of the hottest commodities in recent years.
Rack focus of tape measure around tree
...and they think they can capture it with just a tape measure and a pen.
SOT: Forty-four point 3.
The men don't want the trees, they want what is stored inside: carbon dioxide.
SCHAPIRO: So how much carbon would you think is in this tree right here?
DA BRITEZ: I think it probably contains between 90-100 kilos of carbon.
Ricardo da Britez is the chief forest scientist in this reserve. He oversees the carbon counting here. His measurements are being followed closely by people around the world ... trying to figure out how to buy and sell this carbon on the international market.
SCHAPIRO: If carbon is basically selling on the market - what does it cost on the market, about ten dollars a ton?
DA BRITEZ: Yes.
SCHAPIRO: So basically this tree is worth...
DA BRITEZ: ...one dollar.
SCHAPIRO: ...one dollar on the carbon market.
One dollar for one tree--the math seemed simple.
But then I wondered...who gets the dollar?
SCHAPIRO: So tell me then, the particular carbon in this tree belongs to...
DA BRITEZ: The credits from that carbon belong to General Motors.
Wide shot of forest
General Motors? How did an American company end up owning the carbon in these trees? It all started in 1991...
ARCHIVE: Kilometers and kilometers of mangrove...the largest concentration of planet and animal species per square meter...
Conservation groups identified this area known as Guaraquecaba... as one of the most threatened eco-hot spots in the world.
Even Al Gore visited, triggering international attention.
Reporter outside TNC office
ARCHIVE: The American group that wants to help buy land is this one here, The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature conservancy tried for years to raise funds, but the big money didn't start pouring into the region until fears began to rise about climate change, and a new reason to save the trees--carbon -- brought in three large American companies.
Ricardo da Britez: The companies were interested in carbon credits. Each one of these companies supported a different project. The first project was // was supported by American Electric Power.
Da Britez explained how in 2000, American Electric Power, the utility giant, bought into an area the size of Manhattan... then came the car company General Motors, ... and finally Chevron oil. The three companies invested a total of $18 million to preserve this forest.
The Nature Conservancy brokered the deal through a Brazilian environmental group called SPVS, founded by this man Clovis Borges.
BORGES: We will purchase part of the land of the region, and preserve these areas.
CLOVIS BORGES: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SPVS
BORGES: And the carbon, or the carbon credits that could be provided - it's not a guarantee - will be the results that this company can have. So the credits...
SCHAPIRO: M eaning they own the carbon credits.
BORGES: They own the carbon credits.
But what is a carbon credit? And why are so many people so interested in buying and selling something that didn't even exist five years ago?
It's a question I've been investigating. Before I left for Brazil I met with veteran Wall Street executive, Tom Lewis.
TOM LEWIS, CEO, NYMEX GREEN EXCHANGE
LEWIS: People often ask the question what is the difference between carbon and other commodities...in many cases, it's exactly the same as other commodities, it trades precisely in the same way. Globally it's considered about a $300 billion market today. But the expectation is that within a decade that market could be between $2-3 trillion dollars.
Where would all that money come from? Climate legislation before Congress would for the first time force big polluters to reduce their emissions, or purchase offsets. One of the nations biggest emitters is AEP.
MICHAEL MORRIS, CEO, AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER
MORRIS: The theory that we have is really pretty straightforward. You give me a carbon credit and I'll pass it along to my customers.
Mike Morris is CEO of American Electric Power - the largest operator of coal-fired power plants in the country. He told us that investing in cleaner technology is expensive and takes time, and the only way he would be able to meet emission targets would be to purchase carbon credits.
MORRIS: We'll purchase credits, we'll be in the credit market, along with many, many other people, and so we need the kinds of things that will create credits in the most cost effective way.
And the cheapest and most readily available offsets on the market are forests.
Most of us if asked would say it sounds like a great plan: save a tree, and soak up the carbon.
Tromping through forest with Farmer
But most of us don't live here... and this man does. He's a farmer who lives between the GM and American Electric Power reserves.
SCHAPIRO: What an operation, incredible. A huge tree he's been breaking down in about three and a half minutes.
FARMER: Now it's ready to eat.
Schapiro takes a bite.
For this farmer, the forest is far more than a carbon sink. This endangered heart of palm provides food for his family.
SCHAPIRO: How many people...
FARMER: ...to eat? This is enough for five people.
But since the reserve was created ten years ago, he hasn't been able to get access to the land where he and his family once found sustenance.
FARMER: The land isn't even theirs, it's ours. We're workers who live from the forest. They don't want human beings in the forest.
With all these new assets on the line, forest enforcement in Guaraquecaba has been stepped up.
This branch of the state military - called the Green Police, or Forca Verde -- was established decades ago to protect against environmental crimes. Now due to the avid American interest in the carbon, their mission has taken on a new focus--protecting the forest from the people who live there.
ALVES: They circled around here, they took out their gun and kicked in the door. I was there and came out. And the guy had a gun, pointed at my chest.
Antonio Alves' land borders the GM reserve and he has had multiple run-ins with the Green Police. On one occasion, he told us, his roof was leaking and he couldn't afford the materials to fix it. So he went out to find wood in the forest where he lives.
ALVES: And then the two police officers showed up. One puts a gun right here. I looked at him and turned off my chainsaw. They handcuffed me right there.
ALVES: There is a law that you can't chop down a tree. It's not legal. But if you're not clear-cutting a forest, just cutting 3 or 4 trees to build a house, I don't think it's a crime. They think it is.
ALVES spent 11 days in jail for his crime, and has since moved away because of continued harassment by the Green Police... it's a complaint that's increased since the carbon reserves were established.
The Nature Conservancy declined to speak with us on camera. In public statements, they point to the jobs they've created in the reserve, and their reforestation of degraded lands. They make no mention of those being displaced from the forest.
The Nature Conservancy's local partner Clovis Borges doesn't apologize for what they've accomplished here.
BORGES: During our 17 years in Guaraquecaba. We were accused for everything; this is part of the process. // we really were able to develop one project that can link the carbon with conservation. // Maybe we are not right. We are trying to deal with something very tough, very hard. And we don't have enough time. We are running against the time because destruction of nature is happening everywhere, very quickly.
Mark roaming among the devastated forest; flyover of deforestation from juma flight sequence...
The stakes here in Brazil are clear everywhere you go. Deforestation has made Brazil into the world's third largest green house gas emitter. For years, they looked the other way. But now Brazil is facing the problem head on.
Guys with guns, getting ready, driving jeep
We went to the frontline of deforestation with a team of federal agents.
SCHAPIRO (in car): The police ahead of us have heard the guys we're going after may be coming down this road to escape as we go towards them.
RADIO: It looks like there is a truck up ahead (check translation)
Stopping truck, interrogating driver, workers.
There they were, illegal loggers. Truck after truck, loaded with logs, all day and into the night. This was just one road in one corner of the Amazon, but it was a scene likely playing itself across the country.
In the light of day the agents took stock of their catch.
This scene was familiar. They were measuring the trees, but the numbers here told a very different story.
This federal agent told us how much this tree is worth on the black market.
NORBERTO: A middleman will then sell it to a mill for $1000.
One thousand dollars. In other words, a tree worth $1 on the carbon market could be worth a thousand times that to an illegal sawmill.
Reversing these economics, the UN estimates, will take an immediate global investment of $25 billion. But who will pay for it? And to whom?
Alt: But who will pay for it? And who will get the money?
For centuries foreigners have been coming to Brazil to extract its riches--and many started here in the port city of Manaus. It's a booming free for all, at the gateway to the Amazon.
But now the local governor is turning the tables.
EDUARDO BRAGA, GOVERNOR, AMAZONAS STATE
GOVERNOR BRAGA: If you come to an Amazon and ask him, "Well, give up all your jobs, all your economic base, because we need to save the trees." They are going to say, "No, I need to feed my kids."
Governor in crowd
Governor Eduardo Braga is a savvy politician, and he is getting political traction by asserting control over his state's forests.
Governor Braga at school rally crowd.
GOVERNOR BRAGA (at rally): Taking care of our forests is fundamental for our future generations. Our people are the guardians of the forest. And we need to be recognized and paid for the environmental benefits that the forest creates for rich countries...for the developed countries.
BRAGA: What we understand in Brazil is that the forest belongs to our people, but this forest is providing environmental service worldwide. So we must recognize that, and we must pay the people who take care of these trees.
And that's exactly what Braga says he is doing. He invited us deep into the heart of the Amazon to see for ourselves.
Here in the remote Juma Reserve, residents are actually paid not to cut down their trees. And any carbon credits generated from this preservation are supposed to come back to the community.
Residents are trained to earn money from living trees.
Like sustainably harvesting rainforest nuts.
They harvest açaí, the brazilian superfood,
Their nursery produces essential elements for the perfume chanel #5.
They built a new school, the only one for miles.
And where did they get the money to do all this?
VIDEO: When you stay at our hotel... you are burning energy and it affects the climate. Offset it! Offset it! Offset it!
Braga made a deal with the Marriott hotel chain who gave $2 million to kick this project off the ground.
VIDEO: We've partnered with the Brazilian state of Amazonas and help set up a foundation.
Braga has been courting corporate sponsors to fund more than a dozen reserves here in the Amazon.
Juma is considered to be the model--an experiment with a new strategy to protect the trees and pay the people.
Families receive $25 dollars every month through a program called Bolsa Floresta.
Shots of Dalvina and sister getting money
The money is accessible at any ATM. The problem is getting to one.
The closest ATM requires a two-day roundtrip journey by boat.
And it's expensive: they will have spent half the stipend on travel by the time they get home.
DALVINA: It's not enough. That's the problem. We don't have enough income to live.
Dalvina Almeida and her husband are farmers. And they say the Bolsa Floresta program that was supposed to be putting more money in their pockets, has put them out of work.
HUSBAND: We used to plant a lot. When this became a reserve they told us that we could no longer plant in the forest. Everyone signed up for Bolsa Floresta. But Bolsa Floresta can't sustain my family.
The head of Braga's program admits that it will take years for Juma to truly become sustainable.
Some Brazilians dispute the very idea of relying on corporations to save the forest...
MARINA SILVA, SENATOR, ACRE STATE
SILVA: How can we preserve the forest and at the same time preserve your right to feed your children, send them to school and to live in dignity in the place you've chosen to live.
Marina Silva is a senator from Braga's neighboring state. She grew up in the Amazon and is celebrated for slowing Brazil's rates of deforestation.
She says that America needs to reduce it's own emission first, before Brazilian forests are put on the table.
SILVA: Otherwise we are going to transfer the problem one more time to the developing countries. And the developed countries are going to continue their same practices. The problem is not going to stop.
Flying over forest
But carbon credits remain the key ingredient in the American strategy. At Copenhagen the U.S. government pledged $1 billion dollars to help bring the world's trees into the carbon market.
And anticipating a new energy bill in Congress, multinationals continue to buy up forests to offset their emissions ...
a deal that environmentalists argue is the way to get industry on board the legislation... calling it a "win-win", good for business, and good for the environment.
MORRIS: It's - you always hear this classic win, win line, and I've never really bought much into the win-win, you win, I win, how can that be, but at the end of the day, if you think about biodiversity and you think about the capacity of forests to do the things that they do and you know that they are a very effective carbon sink, it just makes sense. And protecting the current and remaining forests of the world and the deforestation effort
MORRIS: We think makes a great deal of sense.
SILVA: We can't treat this problem like it's a business, a commercial relationship between countries.// To talk about dealing with this issue just from the perspective of carbon credits, is to skirt the responsibility we have to deal with the dangers our planet is facing.
Mark driving in the mud
Before I left the Amazon, I came upon one more place where the tensions in the forest were coming to a head....
It was a scene that contained all the elements of this complicated story...
These are illegal charcoal kilns...
SCHAPIRO: What this is doing is burning down the Amazon to create charcoal, which ultimately ends up in a steel factory. And that steel factory makes automobile doors, // and many other items that start their journey right here.
We watched as the agents cracked down on the carvoeiros --or charcoal people....
Police crush kiln
...and the old and new carbon economies collided.
FATHER: If you leave the charcoal, I'll destroy the kilns.
FATHER: I have kids to raise. How am I going to live? I'm going to have to rob people.
MOTHER: Go home.
It's a scene likely to be repeated...people struggling for survival... a forest that needs protection... and a gamble that the market will make the difference.
FRONTLINE WORLD 901
BRAZIL: The Carbon Hunters
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