In the build-up to Indian general elections, a survey found that clean drinking water and agriculture-related governance were high on Indian voters’ list of priorities. High levels of water and air pollution, plaguing Indian cities in recent years, were a bigger concern for voters in urban areas.
ECHA has assessed the health and environmental risks posed by intentionally added microplastics and has concluded that an EU-wide restriction would be justified. If adopted, the restriction could result in a reduction in emissions of microplastics of about 400 thousand tonnes over 20 years.
The definition of microplastic is wide, covering small, typically microscopic (less than 5mm), synthetic polymer particles that resist (bio)degradation. The scope covers a wide range of uses in consumer and professional products in multiple sectors, including cosmetic products, detergents and maintenance products, paints and coatings, construction materials and medicinal products, as well as various products used in agriculture and horticulture and in the oil and gas sectors.
The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is a collaborative effort to accelerate progress and improve accountability for responsible supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry. Recently, the initiative has released the first draft of their framework for improving accountability for responsible supply chain commitments in agriculture and forestry, including as set of the core principles & definitions, a practical operational guidance. The initiative is now preparing to expand on the principles in an operational manual, and they are inviting input and feedback from as many companies, government entities, non-profits, and other stakeholders as possible.
During a high-level session at World Water Week in Stockholm, H&M group and WWF announced a new initiative to help Turkey tackle its water challenges, particularly pollution, and ensure sustainable, clean water supplies for businesses, people and nature. The project will focus on improving water management methods and policies in in the Büyük Menderes river basin, which is home to large-scale agriculture and industry, including textile operations, as well as rich biodiversity.
A new report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of the World’s Forests suggests that improving co-operation between nations’ farming and forestry sectors will help to reduce deforestation and improve food security. The report shows that in more than 20 countries the increasing forest cover and food security can happen at the same time, and among those countries the common features are secure land tenure and effective land-use planning. As thus, the coordinated policies between forestry and agriculture are essential, which are lack in many countries actually.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resource of Australia has decided that certified businesses are required to maintain an equivalent due diligence system under PEFC Chain of Custody standard, and also AFS (Australia’s PEFC-endorsed national forest certification system), which means that PEFC-certified companies in Australia are now recognized as automatically meeting the due diligence requirements in the illegal logging regulation of Australia, and no separate due diligence system prepared for the illegal logging regulation specifically is not required.
According to the World Bank, forest fires in Indonesia last year caused the country at least $16 billion economic losses, which is equivalent to 1.9 percent of its GDP. The haze caused by the fire blanketed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in September and October, which was cleared by the rainy season in early November. Many of the fires were set by smallholders and companies to clear land for agriculture, especially palm oil, which makes it difficult for Indonesian authorities to respond to the fires.
A new study published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that the role of agriculture in the destruction of mangrove forests in South-East Asia has been underestimated. The study is based on a 12-year assessment conducted between 2000 and 2012, which found that in South-East Asia mangroves were being lost at an average rate of 0.18%. Rice and palm oil plantations contributed nearly 40% to the lost. The author is calling for action as mangrove habitats in South-East Asia are highly biodiverse and are vital to the livelihood or millions of people.
As more than two-thirds of deforestation globally have been caused by commercial agriculture, both governments and private sectors have make many promises to tackle the problem. However, neither is likely to achieve goals by working on their own. Forest experts at Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) propose private sectors to work with REDD+ and other government initiatives, laws, and regulations as a new approach to implement forest commitments.
A recent study released by an initiative bringing together the UN’s environment, agriculture and development agencies warns that agriculture is the world largest driver for deforestation, responsible for perhaps 80 percent of deforestation globally. Misguided government subsidies aimed at helping farmers produce food more efficiently often end up leading to deforestation. Governments need to broaden approaches to identifying root causes of deforestation and changing the offending policies.
Scientists at UCL have defined three phases of global forest loss, the third of which we are living through now. They believe this third phase poses dangerous consequences if not correctly managed at a global scale. They believe the first phase happened over 6000 years ago when hunter-gatherers moved into tropical forests. The second phase saw the emergence of tropical agriculture. Despite altering the forest both of these phases maintained its overall health. The third phase – known as ‘Global Integration’ - has much greater impacts and is defined by distant decision-makers directing forest and agricultural land use. There have been positive moves, such as the UN’s New York Declaration of Forests agreeing to halt deforestation and restore 150 million hectares. But moves to expand the palm oil industry in to Africa are concerning and the study worries about the implications for the continent’s natural forests. The report calls for a renewed attention on forests at the Paris climate talks, where commitments to reduce deforestation and secure alternative finance are essential to success.
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.
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.
A report has claimed that the Peruvian government is ignoring the real drivers of deforestation and failing to safeguard the rights of indigenous people who rely on, and are best-placed to protect, the country’s forests. The report, Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous perspectives on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, was issued by Peru’s indigenous peoples’ organisation (AIDESEP), and international human rights NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). Conflicting with previous reports that suggest agriculture is mostly to blame (see above), this report suggests the invisible drivers of deforestation have a much more significant impact. These include infrastructure projects, such as the Transoceanic highway, oil, gas and mining projects, palm oil plantations, illegal logging operations, and mega-dam projects. According to the report, roughly 75% of deforestation in Peru occurs within 20km of a road. The report goes on to suggest practical steps to address this deforestation and violation of indigenous peoples’ rights, including: resolving territorial demands; providing legal, financial and technical support; close legal loopholes; and implement robust and independent planning mechanisms to ensure economic interests do not over-ride all other considerations.
The Peruvian environment ministry has confirmed that deforestation rates in the country have increased significantly in 2013. The actual forest cleared in 2013 was almost 30% higher than the average since 2001 – spiking at 145,000 hectares, compared to an average of 113,000 hectares. A majority of the loss has been attributed to agriculture. The 2013 spike hasn’t happened in isolation and data from recent years – including aggregated forest loss alerts from Global Forest Watch - has shown an upward trend of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.
Travis Perkins have been recognised for their efforts in eliminating destructive deforestation from their supply chain. The award for most improved company was given by CDP as part of their 2014 global forests report, ‘Deforestation-free supply chains: From commitments to action’. The report, set against the backdrop of September’s landmark New York Declaration on Forests, recognises ongoing improvement in removing deforestation from agricultural supply chains by 2020. Jez Cutler, head of group environment at Travis Perkins Group – and a guest speaker at our 2011 PREPS Seminar – said,
“We are delighted to be recognised as the most improved company in our industry in reducing reliance on forest risk commodities in the supply chain.
“This is a result of our continuous efforts to improve environmental excellence and sustainability throughout our organisation and our activities. We will continue to aim for further improvements and transparency as well as engagement with important organisations such as the CPD, who support this agenda.”
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Deforestation in the Amazon has increased 28% in the 12 months through the end of July 2013. The rise is accountable by expanding farms and a rush for land around big infrastructure projects. Changes to Brazil’s forestry laws are also attributable to the increase, as well as high global prices for agricultural commodities.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces to promote viable forestry investment and innovation in the Russian Federation's Far East based on sustainable use of forest resources. Improving legal frameworks and the inventory of forest resources; developing modern forestry infrastructures and supporting services, in particular railway transportation networks; introducing modern logging, as well as harvesting and wood-processing technologies; providing adequate training at local level; clearly designating and protecting forest areas of high biodiversity value are among the key Roadmap recommendations.
In response to the dramatic decline of forest cover in West Africa, 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have agreed to work together across borders to protect and manage the region’s forests and wildlife. The Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and use of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa was adopted alongside the Sub-regional Action Program to Combat Desertification at a meeting on 12 September 2013.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Global Forest Assessment 2010 reported that 870,000 ha of forests were lost in the sub-region each year between 2000 and 2010. The convergence plan notes that these losses were due primarily to illegal cutting, brush fires, extensive agriculture (farming over large areas of land with low productivity) and transhumance (moving livestock from one grazing area to another), as well as legal, political, technical and economic limitations.