The World Economic Forum recently published research suggesting consumers in a few key emerging market producer countries (Indonesia and Brazil) and importing countries (China and India) together account for 40% of global consumption of the four commodities most associated with tropical deforestation—soy, beef, palm, and wood products. The authors project that by 2025 demand for these commodities within these four countries could increase by 43%, resulting in forest areas equivalent to the size of Nigeria being cut down every. Increasing demand for meat and calorie-rich foods, regulatory changes, and shifts in constraints for domestic production will all be key factors in fueling demand in these emerging market economies.
A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe with the high value (up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export). Buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon. To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed also.
Brazil’s government has abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining. The size of the area will be open to mining is about 30% of Renca which is larger than Denmark. Although the government confirmed the nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected, activists worried that these areas could be badly compromised.
FSC in Brazil is now working with BVRio, the organization that set up the Responsible Timber Exchange in late 2016. BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber, 30% of which was FSC-certified. The partnership with FSC is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
The Brazilian government has revised upward its estimate for the extent of Amazon rainforest destroyed last year. Figures released last week by Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) put Amazon deforestation at 6,207 square kilometres for the year ended July 31, 2015. That represents an increase of 6.5 percent relative to the estimate of 5,831 square kilometres published last December.
Interpol has released a purple notice on 30 August about an illegal timber trading operation involving four companies in Brazil, which stems from an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police that uncovered a technique employed by illegal timber traders in the country. The method in question involves obtaining fraudulent forest management plans that declare a higher density of a high-value timber species within a timber concession than actually exists on the ground, allowing criminals to harvest timber from unauthorized areas and report it as if it was legal. These false forest management plans are obtained through bribery or by the operators who forge them.
Imazon, a group that tracks forest trends in Brazil, released data suggesting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may be on the rise after years of remaining at historic lows. The data shows that the deforestation during the month of June 2016 is the highest level recorded in a single month since November 2007. Forest clearing in Brazil often rises in dry years and when the national currency is weak, which makes agricultural exports more profitable. Currently, both conditions are present in Brazil. INPE, Brazil’s national satellite agency, provides official deforestation quarterly. The rise of deforestation trend in Brazil could be further confirmed after both INPE and Imazon release data next month.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK analysed data from 824 harvest areas in private and community-owned forests scattered throughout the 123 million hectare Brazilian state of Para, which is the source of almost half of all timber production in the Brazilian Amazon. The results demonstrate that it is crucial to manage yields of selectively-logged forests for the long-term health of forest biodiversity as well as the financial viability of local industries. The analysis shows that even so-called ‘reduced-impact logging’ in tropical forests can rarely be defined as sustainable in terms of forest composition and dynamics in the aftermath logging.
Greenpeace have released a publication outlining the economic exploitation issues of the Amazon rainforest and is demanding that the Brazilian government cancel hydropower projects such as the São Luiz do Tapajós (SLT) dam. This dam alone is expected to cause 2,200km2 of deforestation and to drown 400km2 of rainforest. Previous projects have led to huge habitats being wiped out causing significant impacts on the populations of fish, aquatic reptiles and the life cycles of local mammals.
WWF-Brazil has released a guide which provides an overview of the updated Forest Code in Brazil. The report gives recommendations for decision makers in supply chain companies, financial institutions and governments on how to take action to implement and ensure compliance to the Forest Code. Information on the Forest Code law and recommendations to ensure effective implementation are also outlined.
Prince Charles has called upon the world leaders to work together on the better protection of the forests of the world at the UN Climate conference in Paris. In a speech given at a meeting at COP21 2015, Prince Charles said too many companies still turned a blind eye to their commercial activities destroying forests, and that protecting forests was not enough - the world needed to re-forest deforested lands.
After three years of campaigning, a coalition of activists, celebrities and civil society representatives crowded into the Brazilian Congress last week to submit a bill calling for an end to deforestation. The bill is part of a Zero Deforestation campaign led by Greenpeace.
The Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG) published a report showing the deforestation between 2010 and 2013 declined sharply across the Amazon basin. This is the first time the change in primary forest in the Amazon outside of Brazil is documented. Unlike Brazil, which owns advanced monitoring system, forest data from non-Brazilian countries are much less reported before. The report also includes a detailed deforestation map.
While deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen sharply over the past decade, a larger share of forest loss is now being driven by smallholders who are more difficult to control, posing new challenges for the Brazilian government.
Environmentalists have called Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s commitments on reducing deforestation and supporting renewable energy ‘weak’ and representing little more than maintaining the status quo. Greenpeace Brazil say the target of restoring 12 million hectares of forest represents only half of the reforestation requirements under Brazil’s Forest Code and are just another commitment to comply with existing laws, not a bold new initiative.
Brazil has, however, worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than any large country over the past decade, with emissions from all sectors having fallen by around 40% since 2005, with an 85% cut in carbon dioxide from deforestation.
Satellite data analysis suggests deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may have reached a 7-year high. Imazon, a Belém-based non-profit, released data showing deforestation in the region pacing ahead of the previous year’s level for 13 months consecutively. The 12-month moving average of short-term deforestation alert data has reached levels that have not been seen since 2008. This hasn’t yet been confirmed by the Brazilian government who now report statistics quarterly for its deforestation system, but recent figures released by INPE mirror this data.
Imazon’s newest study shows that, between August 2012 and July 2014, 90% deforestation in Brazilian Amazon happened in protected areas, while 10% occurred outside protected areas. During the two years’ period, forest loss was heavily concentrated in areas where infrastructure was expanding and management plans and funding were lacking. The study also recommends possible measures to against the deforestation, including law enforcement, eviction of non-traditional settlers from illegally occupied forests, and state resettlement schemes, etc.
Archer Daniels Midland, the third largest global supplier of agricultural commodities and one of the world’s leading soy traders, is launching their Responsible Soy Standard. Under this new programme, yearly assessments will be conducted by expert third parties to determine if growers are complying with a number of environmental, legal, social and agronomic standards.
Despite soy production acting as a leading driver of deforestation across South America, palm oil has remained the priority commodity for companies in the fight against deforestation. While 117 private companies have pledged to reduce the impact of their involvement with palm oil, only 27 have done the same with soy. It is hoped that ADM’s commitment could lead to other organisations following their lead and expanding their commitments to deforestation across commodities.
Experts have warned, however, that although commitments like these have led to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, the problem is simply being moved elsewhere. Much of the conversion of natural ecosystems for soy cultivation now occurs in other areas including Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Researchers have said that deforestation of the Amazon in March has almost tripled compared to March 2014. Imazon, a Brazilian non-profit research institution, say that 22 square miles of forest have been removed across the Amazon region in March, compared to 7.7 square miles in March 2014. Three quarters of the cleared forest was focused in Mato Grosso, where part of the Pantanal wetlands are found. These figures by Imazon differ to those of the Brazilian government who suggested that deforestation had actually fallen by 18% across the nine states forming the Amazon basin.
A report from Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit has found that we are still some way from realising the full potential of tropical forests in stabilising global climate, agricultural yields, ecosystem services and local livelihoods. The report, Tropical Forests: A Review, argues that forests have such incredible potential because of their dual role as carbon sinks. Less deforestation means less carbon is released and as the forest continues to grow, more carbon is locked in to the biomass. The report also highlights the importance of tropical forests to regional and global rainfall cycles. This is particularly relevant for Brazil where a severe drought has impacted cities and major agricultural areas. Modelling has shown that deforestation in the Amazon and Congo Basin could affect rainfall patterns across Europe and North America. The report urges forests be prioritised as a significant solution as we approach binding international agreements on climate change.