Ministers attending the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC adopted the 'Ministerial Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate', which highlights the significant role of sustainable forest management in achieving climate change commitments in the Paris Agreement.
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.
WWF-Vietnam and the Center for People and Forests have launched a joint project under the “Responsible Asia Forestry & Trade” (RAFT) Partnership on sustainable forest management, focusing on classifying and identifying timber for international trade. Viet Nam is also at the final stage of signing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU.
In November 2016 WWF Indonesia suspended its membership of APRIL's Stakeholder Advisory Committee because of a lack of progress implementing their sustainable forest management plan, failing to abide by government policy on peatland protection, and a lack of transparency on business operations.
WWF have called on APRIL to have independent, third party verification on their progress with the forest management plan, as well as filling policy gaps to address deforestation in High Conservation Value forest and High Carbon Stock forest, as well as social issues and peat development.
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.
A group of scientists questioned whether sustainable forest management (SFM) is an effective way as commonly believed to protect tropical forests and the habitat and carbon reserves. They published a study in the journal Land Use Policy arguing that SFM may not actually lead to less deforestation based on the their analysis of timber concessions in the Central African nation of the Republic of Congo. According to their research, timber concessions operating under forest management plans (FMPs) showed higher rates of deforestation than concessions without them. The research was criticized by some scientists as overly simplistic. One of the authors was hesitant to extend the findings beyond the borders of the Republic of Congo.
A report on the activities of the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP) in Guatemala show the positive potential impact of community based forest management. The members of ACOFOP include small furniture manufacturers sell products approved by the Rainforest Alliance.
The article refers to a report published last month by the World Resources Institute which investigated both the Guatemalan concessions and a similar model found in Brazil’s indigenous communities in the Amazon. The WRI estimated that Guatemala stood to benefit up to $800 million over the next two decades through community management of forest concessions.
A new report by the Rainforest Action Network provides further evidence of the benefits of greater local land rights in conserving tropical forests. The research follows a separate report published in 2014 by the World Resources Institute, an international environmental NGO. That study showed deforestation rates were 11 times lower in zones licensed to local communities than in other lands.
The Mongabay article reports that Indonesia targeted 2.5 million hectares of land for community-based forest management between 2009 and 2014 but only 13% of this had actually been allocated for community-based forest management by the end of 2013. The article points to criticisms by some that many licenses vulnerable to abuse with one commentator claiming that some loosely organized communities will simply sell their land to the highest bidder – often industrial companies.
Indonesia has long been accused of not managing forests in a sustainable manner and of failing to curb illegal logging and trade in regard to the export of forest-sourced products. The demand to implement sustainable forest management policies is getting stronger. The voluntary PEFC/IFCC (the Indonesia Forest Certification Co-Operation) certification has been seen as a “passport” for the companies to allow their products to entre countries that set sustainable forest management preconditions. Forestry companies’ policies need to be tested on the ground.
It’s been a year since Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) released its latest ‘Sustainable Forest Management Plan’. APRIL claims to have an ‘ongoing commitment to conservation and a sustainable approach to landscape development.’ But it plans to continue clearing forests until 2020. It also refuses to stop draining peatlands - even though doing so wrecks the climate, and leads to forest fires and floods. Over the past year, Greenpeace researchers have been monitoring APRIL’s operations on Padang Island, off the coast of Sumatra. The photos they took show what APRIL’s real objective is to clear as much of Indonesia's rainforest as it can get away with before it is forced to stop.
China's Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia to its north and east, contains 18.5 million hectares of state forest - more natural forest than any other province in the country. However, since the mid-twentieth century, Heilongjiang has had over 600 million cubic meters of timber extracted from its woodlands. Now, China is trying out a complete ban on commercial logging in the province's state-owned forests. Forestry experts predict that this trial ban will allow forests to regenerate hence, replenishing timber supplies, but will also push the industry to focus on improved forest management. According to the State Forestry Administration, to ensure that the ban is enforced and implemented over its intended time frame, the central Chinese government has allocated 2.35 billion yuan ($375 million) per year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. If the ban succeeds, it could be extended throughout northeastern China and Inner Mongolia.
Building on the sustainability achievements of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and FSC Brazil announced that all forest products that will be acquired by the Organising Committee will be certified. This includes overlay structures, furniture, communication materials and stationary. The partnership between FSC Brazil and the Organising Committee is expected to boost the market for FSC certified wood in Brazil, and also to provide a push for responsible forest management in Brazil.
Canada’s Resolute Forest Products have had 3 of its forest management certificates suspended following complaints filed by the Grand Council of the Crees; the representing body of the First nations communities, as well as Greenpeace. The certificate suspension is due to the company failing to meet various FSC requirements including the protection of high conservation values and support from stakeholders for its operation. The suspended forest management certificates mean that Resolute can no longer label their pulp, paper and wood products as FSC-certified.
Skoll World Forum debate: “How do we feed the world and still address the drivers of deforestation?”
The debate led to a disagreement between The Forest Trust (TFT) and WWF. Jason Clay from WWF US referred to FSC as a success story in halting deforestation. However, Scott Poynton from TFT, while acknowledging FSC as the strongest forest management standard, accused it of allowing illegal timber through thousands of Chinese Chain-of-Custody certified factories with the help of WWF’s GFTN programme, FSC accredited certification bodies and the FSC itself. Clay did not respond to the allegations.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has published a report, Wood for Good: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Wood Products, analyzing tropical wood production’s effect on deforestation and offering solutions for sustainable production. The report identifies a threefold solution to meet the global demand for sustainable tropical wood: 1) turn to responsible plantation forests; 2) governments to develop policies that make sustainable forest management an attractive business prospect; and 3) all stakeholders should demand products certified by FSC or PEFC.
The Global Canopy Program is promoting the use of smartphones by indigenous communities to protect their forests. The strategy would see smartphone apps used to collect geographic data and photographs. This local data would then be linked to remote sensing data to enhance the monitoring of forest management. Up until now the effectiveness of community forest management projects in halting deforestation has been brought into question. The hope is that smartphones would play a significant role in helping local communities to manage their forests though there are some concerns that this would reduce the role of communities to simply collecting data without having input using their local knowledge on how their forests should be managed.
The Viet Nam Administration of Forestry announced that over 13,700 violations of forest protection and timber management laws were reported in the first six months of 2012. Around 623ha of forest land have been lost in this period as a result of changes in forest use purposes, illegal logging and forest fires. Government ministries working on the issue aim to tighten controls on the wood processing industry and local authorities have been ordered to review existing forestry projects and ensure that forest protection programmes are adequately funded.
Two forest managers and a businessman have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the illegal logging of 500 cubic metres of protected forests along the Laos border. The arrests follow those of six others who the Vietnamese police have proposed charging with violations of forest management and bribery.
PEFC has cleared Forestry Tasmania of unsustainable harvesting practices and re-certified the company for another three years. The audit came after allegations that the company was logging native forest at twice the rate of sustainable yield. The outcome was met with criticism from Kim Booth of the Australian Green Party who said, “the PEFC auditing that's done on Australian forestry standard harvesting methods is not worth the paper it's written on because the market's rejected it and that's the essential problem that Forestry Tasmania has fallen into”.
CIFOR highlighted the need for a new approach to enabling smallholder and community-managed forests to achieve certification in a side event organised by FSC at the RIO+20 Conference. They used an example in Bolivia where cases of theft were reported among the members. CIFOR believe that one of the reasons for this is due to insecurity as a result of formalising property rights which have cut some community members off from their traditional harvesting area. Additionally, the requirement to rotate no-take zones could lead to conflict within the community. CIFOR is in the process of collaboratively developing a new paradigm for smallholder and community forest management which will take into account the differing uses community members have for the forest and acknowledge that collective decision-making in a community may not be feasible.