Ethiopia looks to carbon trading as it gears up to be net carbon neutral by 2025

first_imgArticle published by Genevieve Belmaker Carbon Trading, Forests, Redd, Redd And Communities, Sustainable Forest Management The massive Oromia region constitutes over 34 percent of Ethiopia’s landmass and is home to more than 33 million people.The Oromia program will receive $68 million in various benefits through two World Bank program for the next decade.Ethiopia will use the program to build on existing landscape protection and project approaches to REDD+ as they scale up and finance improved land use across Oromia. ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s work to keep its environmental programs sustainable while local communities benefit from forest preservation is set to get a boost. The country’s most prominent program to mobilize resources toward its net carbon neutral by 2025 goal, the Oromia Forested Landscape Program (OFLP), is scheduled to start this year.Ethiopia’s massive Oromia region constitutes 34.3 percent of the country’s landmass, largely in the southwest, and holds more than a third of the country’s 100 million residents. It also harbors Ethiopia’s largest concentration of biodiversity.The $68 million OFLP project was established through two World Bank funds. One fund is for $18 million and is aimed at the restoration of forests on degraded land. The other is a $50 million fund for a program targeting carbon sequestration assessment and performance enhancement. Under the umbrella of the OFLP, environmentally-friendly businesses and industries in local communities, along with forest tourism, are also slated for development.The OFLP will receive payments of up to $50 million for verified carbon credits against an agreed forest reference emission level from the World Bank for a decade. The forest reference emission level is part of a critical policy framework that gives countries a point to measure the results they have gained from REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries) implementation.An additional $18 million is under a five-year grant agreement focused on developing approaches that enable sustainable land use and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the BioCarbon Fund for Sustainable Forest Landscapes. The BioCarbon Fund works to combat greenhouse gas emissions that come from the land sector, including deforestation and forest degradation, and in the promotion of relevant land-use policies. The project will monitor and account for forest cover reductions and deforestation, and associated GHG emissions across Oromia by addressing causes of deforestation and degradation.The Oromia region (in red) in Ethiopia covers over 34 percent of Ethiopia’s landmass. Map via Wikimedia Commons/TUBSThe OFLP program is designed to build on existing landscape protection and project approaches to REDD+ in an effort to scale up and finance improved land use across Oromia. REDD+ is a multi-platform program established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It provides a way for stakeholders and involved organizations to share experiences, lessons learned, and outcomes in their work, according to the REDD+ platform website. Some key areas the program addresses and monitors include drivers of deforestation, national strategy, safeguards, and capacity building.Ethiopia wants to use projects like the OFLP to implement change while gaining financial benefit. The country’s current forest cover stands at about 11.5 million hectares, according to national estimates and the U.N.’s 2015 Global Forest Resource Assessment under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to the FAO, a comprehensive national inventory of Ethiopia’s forests has only been done once, between 1988-2004. That study assessed all of Ethiopia and classified land use and land cover classes, growing stock, and trends. It remains the primary source of national scale forest statistics, though the African Forest Forum has planned a national-level survey of planted forests. Other available data shows that forest degradation has not slowed. Global Forest Watch numbers show that between 2001-2014, tree cover loss peaked and remained high compared to the first part of the sampling period.According to Yitbetu Moges, Ethiopia’s national representative for REDD+ at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Climate Change (MoFEC), real progress will require intensive collaboration.Mountain Nyala in Bale, Ethiopia. Photo by Rod Waddington via Flickr“Reducing deforestation and improving [the] livelihood of local communities that depend on forest resources will ensure that carbon credit can be sold to the likes of World Bank, Norway and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),” Moges said. He added that most of the money will be invested in rural development as part of anti-poverty, pro-forest, rural economy-oriented programs.The OFLP will also look at studies commissioned by the Ethiopian government and World Bank that analyze key items including drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, design of a measurement reporting and verification system, preparation of REDD+ safeguard measures, and analysis of legal and institutional frameworks for Oromia REDD+ Program.Oromia has experience with REDD+ through the Bale Mountains Eco-Region Project (BMERP). Building on a previous program in the area, and known broadly as the Bale Eco-Region project, it covers 500,000 hectares and surrounds the 200,000-hectare Bale National Park, a global biodiversity hotspot. It was the first large-scale REDD+ project in Ethiopia.Ethiopia’s Resilient Green Economy Strategy (CRGE) underpins the country’s goal to become net carbon neutral by 2025. The East African nation aims to accomplish key economic goals while reducing GHG emissions through efforts that include carbon trading. Such an accomplishment would involve the country doubling its forest cover to around 30 percent of its landmass, according to MoFEC.The transition to REDD+ While Ethiopia hopes to see future benefits from the REDD+ program, the country is no stranger to carbon trading. It established the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto protocol, which requires countries to create carbon sinks by planting trees on degraded land. The 2,700-hectare Humbo CDM carbon project in Ethiopia’s south was envisaged as a carbon sink program through which carbon was quantified and brought to the international market for purchase, with the World Bank as the primary client.According to Zerihun Dejene, environmental program coordinator at local Ethiopian non-profit consortium group PHE (Population, Health, Environment), Ethiopia has failed to make the most of CDM benefits, which allows emission reduction projects in developing countries to sell certified emission reduction (CER) credits. The CERs can be either traded or sold to progress toward emission reduction goals.Bale National Park, Ethiopia. Photo by Indrik Myneur via Wikimedia Commons“CDM projects require approved finance, meaning the need to invest on a certain amount of afforestation project, develop and quantify the amount of carbon on sale but most developing countries can’t invest on that,” Dejene said. He added that it also requires tedious procedure and substantial investment and resources to make marketable carbon credits. Even then, a prospective buyer might reject them.REDD+ representative Moges added that with the price of one ton of carbon having decreased from a high of $30 to less than $1 over the last decade, the lifespan of CDM naturally came to an end. Yet even though CDM was phased out when the historic Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force in November 2016, the Humbo carbon project remains. Registered in 2009 with a 30-year lifespan, it is the only significant carbon finance project currently active in Ethiopia.In contrast to the Kyoto protocol – which puts binding commitments on individual countries – the Paris Agreement sets out voluntary carbon reduction emissions goals by individual nations. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (now called NDCs) were sent to U.N. Framework on Climate Change by individual countries instead of being used as legally binding emission targets. NDCs are expected to last from 2020-2030 and 163 countries – including Ethiopia – have set out their strategies. Countries that have formally joined the Paris Agreement have NDCs under the interim registry, which does not yet include Ethiopia.Under the Paris Agreement, countries have cooperative agreements to sell and purchase carbon. NDCs take this one step further.“Based on NDCs we can…determine the result of climate change as a result of this,” PHE’s Dejene said. “For example Ethiopia is planning to reduce its carbon emission by around 60 percent by 2020.”Myriad projectsEthiopia isn’t pinning its green economy hopes solely on a carbon trade strategy, though. It are also using other schemes such as constructing electric trains and other green energy projects. The country has already built Africa’s first electric trans-boundary railway project, the 467-mile Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, as well as the 20-mile Addis Ababa light rail project.But proponents say the carbon trading projects can’t come soon enough.“At the moment we’re losing five times more forest than we’re planting,” Moges said. “It’s a crisis situation in terms of natural resource management despite all the efforts…by the government and mass mobilization of the community to [implement] reforestation and afforestation projects.”He added that when REDD+ goes operational, revenue earned by carbon trading goes directly to the local community while helping prevent floods and droughts that regularly cause misery in Ethiopia.“If Ethiopia is strategic in protecting its environment, natural resources like abundant water can be sold just as oil,” Moges said. “The difference being the former is renewable, and through this revenue it can power its industrialization, boost tourism, boost electricity generation thereby creating a wealthy green economy.”Banner image: Soda volcano in Oromia region, Ethiopia. Photo by Katy Anis/UNESCOElias Gebrelsellasie is an Ethiopian journalist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You can find him on Twitter at @EliasGebreResourceshttp://theredddesk.org/countries/ethiopiahttp://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/10/09/ethiopia-climate-project-receives-africa-s-first-forestry-carbon-creditshttp://www.phe-ethiopia.org/https://www.theice.com/ccxFEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

The rise and fall of Regina Lopez, the Philippines’ maverick environment minister

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Activism, Environmental Activism, Environmental Heroes, Environmental Politics, Featured, Forests, Governance, Government, Mining Keith Schneider is an international correspondent specializing in global trends related to water, energy, and food. Based in northern Michigan, he has reported from six continents. Read his blog at ModeShift.org and reach him on Twitter @modeshift. FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Isabel Esterman Lopez was a well-known environmental activist prior to her 2016 appointment as director of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources.During her 10-month tenure, Lopez shut down or suspended 26 mines that failed to pass environmental audits, cancelled approval of 75 proposed mines, and banned new open-pit metal mines.On May 3, Lopez was removed from her post by a House-Senate committee charged with rejecting or confirming political appointments. The committee included politicians with ties to the mining sector.President Rodrigo Duterte — a firm supporter of Lopez — appointed a former Armed Forces chief of staff to replace her. QUEZON CITY, Philippines — On June 20, 2016 Rodrigo Duterte, the newly elected president of the Philippines, asked Regina Lopez to join him in Davao City for an extended conversation about the condition of his country’s land and water.It turned out to be an eventful encounter. The glib, rough talking, 71-year-old strongman former mayor of Davao City sought help from a 62-year-old woman known inside her wealthy family as the renegade daughter, and outside as an incorruptible foundation director and maverick environmentalist. As head of her family’s ABS-CBN Foundation Lopez led one national campaign to ban open-pit mining. She organized another to clean up a portion of the filthy Pasig River that flows through Manila just to prove it could be done.When the meeting concluded, Duterte extended Lopez an invitation to direct an agency widely noted to be notoriously feeble — the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).She accepted. On July 1, the day after Duterte’s inauguration and with his enthusiastic support, Lopez launched environmental compliance audits of the country’s 41 big hard rock mineral mines that eventually resulted in shutdown or suspension orders against 26 mines. She reviewed government approvals for 339 proposed mines and cancelled 75 of them. In the last week of April, the DENR banned new open-pit mines.Gina Lopez announcing ban on open pit mining in the Philippines on April 27. In the foreground, a cell phone broadcasts the event live on her Facebook page. Photo by Keith Schneider.And all the while, during her 10 months in the post Lopez planted bamboo to clear the nation’s waters of pollution, and invested in environmental restoration projects that produced new jobs for indigenous communities. Lopez also started a joint police-military-prosecution task force that curtailed illegal logging and jailed offenders.“What I’m doing is life,” Lopez said in an April 29 interview with Mongabay. “You need to sustain life. Maybe from that comes a deeper and more enlightened perception of what is needed to sustain life, and the role of the environment in the sustenance of life.“If we kill our land, our water, our air for whatever reason, you kill life. For me, you kill the constitutional right of a Filipino, which is the right to a clean and healthy environment. Here it is forces of greed and selfishness that threaten life. I see the government as the only institution that’s in the position to curtail the forces of greed and selfishness. It’s the role of government to do that.”Industry strikes backRarely has an environmental officer in any nation so aggressively challenged the industrial community. Not surprisingly, Philippine business interests mounted a ferocious counter attack within the Congress and the Duterte administration, which includes several cabinet members close to the mining industry. Lopez faced pointed criticism from newspaper editorialists and columnists, who accused her of being inept and prone to “authoritarian tendencies.”A skilled organizer, Lopez proved to be tenacious. She countered with frequent tours of towns affected by polluting mines, and inspected dozens of mine sites by helicopter. Her exploits were covered in the media and on Lopez’s Facebook page, which kept hundreds of thousands of Filipinos informed about the value of the closure orders.Twice Lopez survived review by a 25-member House-Senate committee charged with approving or rejecting cabinet appointments. The family of the committee’s vice chairman, Ronaldo B. Zamora, owns the country’s largest nickel mining company. On May 3, though, on its third try the committee voted in secret and rejected her confirmation. Lopez was done as environment secretary. On May 8, President Duterte announced the appointment of Roy Cimatu, the former Armed Forces chief of staff, to lead the DENR.Executives in the Philippine mining sector, one of the world’s largest with annual production worth around $2 billion, celebrated the committee’s 18-6 vote as a triumph of law over misguided enforcement and arbitrary administration. “We have been agonizing for the past 10 months,” Nelia Halcon, executive vice president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told reporters. “I just think that we made our point and we were able to discuss the issues we brought forward.”If the purpose of dumping Lopez, though, was to put a lid on the attention that the determined secretary had attracted, it did not work. The committee’s vote prompted three days of intense news coverage. Filipinos viewed Lopez’s ouster as a Legislative setup engineered by lawmakers in the pocket of big business. President Duterte said as much when he suggested the vote against Lopez was secured by lawmakers who accepted “lobby money,” a Philippine term for bribes. Members of the committee denied the charge.Lopez’s departure has stirred an intriguing discussion among her allies about the secretary’s insistence on being independent and not playing by conventional rules of currying favor to keep her job. A longer term in office, the thinking goes, would have embedded her successes more deeply in the system. Lopez rejects that notion, arguing that having been given the chance to install more oversight of Philippine polluters she wanted to pursue that goal without regard to her job security. “The damage was urgent and I needed to act with urgency,” she said.A sign of the timesLopez’s short and uncommonly audacious tenure as environment secretary represents a policy and leadership breakthrough for the Philippine landscape, its bountiful marine resources, and its indigenous people. In the days following her ouster the Catholic Church said it would try to convince Lopez to run for president in 2022, when she turns 69. Lopez responds, “I’m not a politician. That’s not who I am.”Lopez’s work also transcends the Philippines. Few Asian government officers express their goals with nearly as much fervor as Lopez. Still, a good number are just as resolute in linking environmental safety to gains in their economies and quality of life. In many ways Lopez’s stint as the Philippines’ lead environmental manager is a distillation of the shift in the environmental values and economic development principles now taking hold in Asia. While the Philippines and other Asian countries haven’t entirely abandoned extraction-oriented economic development strategies, there are increasing signs of a tilt toward cleaner, resource-conserving programs.A core element, for instance, of China’s strategy to clear its dirty air, and solve serious water scarcity, has been to cancel 300 coal-fired power plants and build the world’s largest clean energy manufacturing sector.Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in mid-April, halted work on the Hoa Sen Group’s $10.6 billion, 4,200-acre steel plant to protect coastal waters.In 2013, Mongolians re-elected President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who campaigned on stamping out gold mining operations that were polluting Mongolia’s rivers, and strengthening environmental oversight of big mines. With the support of President Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, is seizing and sinking foreign trawlers fishing illegally off the country’s coastIndia’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat cleanup program is convincing Indians to pick up garbage and litter in their unkempt cities and countryside. Modi is investing billions of rupees to scrub human waste from the Ganges River. In December 2016, the Modi government released a draft national energy plan that set a target of generating nearly 60 percent of the country’s electricity, around 275 gigawatts, from wind, solar, biomass, and small hydropower plants by 2027.Driving Asia’s awakening are ecological and demographic trends that are becoming more urgent. Fixing air and water pollution is now a significant health and economic issue in Asia. The contest for fish, water, timber and food is more intense in fast-growing and densely populated countries. Much of Asia is growing noticeably hotter. Well-organized indigenous communities across the continent refuse to be moved out of the way of big mines and construction projects that consume thousands of acres and are vulnerable to Earth’s new and more powerful wrath — high heat, floods, droughts, typhoons, and earthquakesOceanaGold’s open-pit copper and gold mine in the Sierra Madres range in Didipio, a tiny mountain village with mixed feelings about the enormous scar the mine has produced. Photo by Keith Schneider.It is for those reasons and more that Gerry Arrances, a leader of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, said environmental lawyers are prepared to defend the mining shutdown orders in court. “People support what she’s doing and what it means for the Philippines,” he said.Maria Paz Luna, the DENR undersecretary for legal, legislative affairs and anti-corruption confirmed in an interview that the mining shutdown orders issued by Lopez are not easy to rescind. “If they reverse those positions they have to have a really good reason,” said Luna, the department’s chief legal counsel. “They can’t just lift the law. It’s going to be hard to justify. The open pit mine ban for example. They are going to have to say, ‘No. We can take care of them forever.’“She said open pit mines are a perpetual liability to government. The mining law states that the secretary can issue permits and set the guidelines. Open pit mining is a method of mining and she has authority to prohibit a method of mining. Open pit mining is seen by her to be environmentally destructive and not acceptable for rehabilitation. This method is not acceptable because future generations are at risk.”All over the Philippines, residents and local government officials expressed profound frustration at Lopez’s dismissal and fresh resolve to take up the causes that the secretary started.  Nueva Vizcaya is a case in point. A mineral rich region in mountainous northern Luzon, the province passed an ordinance in 2014 to ban open-pit mining and counted on Secretary Lopez to help enforce it. More than 50 mines are proposed in the province.“Our people oppose mining. Gina Lopez took up our fight,” said Carlos Padilla, the provincial governor, in an interview. “She showed what is possible with a strong and committed environment secretary. Now we know that mining can be stopped.”The Pasig River, which bisects the Manila. Lopez spearheaded a campaign to clean up a heavily polluted section of the river. Photo by Miguel Castaneda via Flickr.A history of activismGina Lopez led an examined and prominent life well before President Duterte summoned her to Davao City. Her family owns the ABS-CBN Corporation, the Philippines’ largest media company, which owns a national television network. As a teenager she was the family’s unconventional daughter, high-spirited and indomitable according to relatives. After leaving college in Boston, Lopez devoted much of her early adulthood traveling to spiritual retreats in India, and working as a missionary for 12 years in Africa. She meditates 90 minutes a day, does not eat meat, and has the slim figure and energy of a schoolgirl.She also knows and despises corrupt politics and the power of venal government. Her father was jailed for five years by Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine dictator. ABS-CBN was seized from the family.Lopez gained prominence as an environmentalist and social activist as the director of the ABS-CBN Foundation. She financed big projects, like the restoration of the 6,750-acre La Mesa Watershed that surrounds Manila’s primary source of drinking water. The project  proved her thesis that repairing ruined ecosystems provides big social and economic returns. The centerpiece of the restored watershed is the 82-acre La Mesa Eco Park that employs over 100 people and attracts thousands of visitors a day, generating revenue that is reinvested to plant more trees and other watershed restoration projects.Lopez was fearless in a nation full of the graves of dead environmental activists; 88 environmentalists were murdered in the Philippines from 2010 to 2015, according to Global Witness, a London-based human rights organization. One of the victims, Gerry Ortega, was a close friend who was killed in January 2011 while he and Lopez worked to defend the island of Palawan from several proposals for big new mines.Lopez was the last person Ortega talked to before his death. She honored him by leading a national campaign in 2011 to shut down open pit mines. This activism produced a presidential executive order in 2012 that blocked mining in ecologically sensitive regions and turned Lopez into one of the most influential anti-mining activists in Asia.President Rodrigo Duterte and Lopez during a December 2016 Cabinet meeting. Photo courtesy of King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo.Duterte needed someone like Lopez to direct the DENR, a big agency that had seldom lived up to its charge to safeguard people and natural resources. Campaign promises to stamp out corruption and kill drug traffickers formed the central ideas of Duterte’s election victory and elevated him to international prominence. Human rights groups have assailed the drug war, which has left over 8,000 people dead and prompted an investigation by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights. Less well known, though, was his allegiance to conserving the country’s breathtaking landscape, its bounty of marine resources and its indigenous communities.Duterte was especially vexed by the metal mining industry, which operated with uneven oversight and was tearing up the ground and polluting rivers around Davao City, on Mindanao island, where he’d served as mayor for 22 years. During the election campaign Duterte distributed flyers that displayed aerial photographs of Mindanao mine practices that horsewhipped mountains, leveled forests, and produced mudslides that turned rivers the color of dried blood.“The mining people must shape up,” Duterte told a big crowd of supporters two weeks before his meeting with Lopez. “They’re spoiling the land. They’re destroying Mindanao. You have to stop.”Five years ago, the chairman of the country’s largest mining company publicly accused Lopez of lying about environmental damage from hard rock mining. Lopez stood her ground at a well-attended industry conference and impassively offered unassailable facts to support her view. The confrontation between the serene environmentalist and the red-faced industrialist was videotaped, and attracted national headlines.It also impressed Duterte. He met with mining executives before election day to issue a warning. He told them that if he won, his administration was prepared to rein in the industry’s rapacious practices with much stricter regulatory enforcement.“Just take care of the environment,” he said. Then he met with Lopez.True to form, she surprised her family when she accepted the job. ABS-CBN opposed Duterte’s campaign and has been critical of Duterte’s presidency. “I support him because he believes in helping people,” Lopez says about Duterte. “He’s sincere about that. He really is. It’s in his heart. I admire him for that. We agree on a lot of things. I told him give me one year, maybe two years. I’ll make a difference. If I don’t I’ll leave. He said okay.”last_img read more