Palm oil producers and environmental activists alike have expressed dismay at a move by European officials to phase out palm-oil based biofuel by 2030. Officials in Indonesia and Malaysia - who together produce 85% of palm oil globally - say the move is discriminatory and have vowed a vigorous response, including lobbying EU member states, bringing the matter before the World Trade Organisation, and imposing retaliatory measures on EU goods.
Environmental activists, on the other hand, say the policy does not go far enough leaving loopholes allowing palm oil to be treated as a renewable fuel, allowing continued expansion of palm plantations into peat forests. They also criticize the policy’s failure to label soybean oil as high risk, with growing evidence that soy cultivation may have greater deforestation risks than palm oil.
The latest State of the World’s Forestsreport, from the UN FAO, analyses how forests and trees contribute to 28 targets across ten Sustainable Development Goals. Echoing the urgency of the recent IPCC report, UN FAO emphasise that swift action is needed to avoid damaging consequences.
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.
In the recent Forest forum meeting we shared Complicit in Corruption - a recent report written by non-profit Earthsight, highlighting the widespread corruption in Ukraine's forests, and revealing how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export.
Earthsight spent two years running field and undercover investigations in Ukraine. Approximately 70% of Ukraine's timber exports enter the EU and Earthsight's investigations indicate that 40% of this timber is being illegally harvest or traded. The report also claims that a significant volume of illegally harvested timber has received the FSC stamp - the former chief of one of the largest timber producing state-forest enterprises admitted to Earthsight he had found it easy to circumvent FSC checks.
FSC has sent a "come clean" ultimatum to APP and its billionaire Indonesian owners, the Widjaja family, following evidence it continues to cut down tropical forests and operate through corporate proxies. A letter was sent to the pulp and paper giant on Monday which sets out the demands FSC expect APP to meet if they want to be readmitted to the council. The ultimatum comes after Greenpeace ended a five year truce with the company earlier this month following an investigation that revealed the company had been destroying tropical forests the entire time the two parties were cooperating on conservation. FSC have demanded APP respond to their letter by Monday, stating publicly their high level commitment to the council’s standards and proposing remedies to Greenpeace’s evidence of deforestation. By June 11th the company will also have to fully disclose their corporate structure and any other violations of the standards.
A RM1.2 billion takeover has saved about 1,500 workers’ jobs at ailing India-owned pulp and paper mill Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd, which was owned by India-based Ballarpur Industries Ltd previously. The takeover by Pelangi Prestasi Sdn Bhd entails the transfer of all SFI assets, land titles and timber licenses and is made possible by strong support of the Sabah state government. The takeover is targeted to be completed by end of this year. Pelangi Prestasi committed to retain all SFI workforce and undertake workers’ back-wages, providing training and support as well as enhance access to basic amenities. For the next five years, it will focus on sustainable development of the forest concession area to maximise value through integrated processing and diversification of products.
NRDC is working alongside the Waswanipi Cree First Nation to protect the last of their intact boreal forest homeland from Quebec’s aggressive logging proposal. Quebec’s plan would be devastating for the Waswanipi, who have already had more than 90 percent of their traditional hunting grounds, located in the old-growth forests of the boreal forest, severely impacted by industrial logging. In addition, the expanded logging would destroy critical habitat for the threatened boreal caribou, and degrade an ecosystem crucial to mitigating global climate change.
Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on 13 October, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification, which is not allowed under current rule. Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
Canada harvests an astonishing 1.8 million acres of forested lands per year—an area half the size of Connecticut—and almost all of it is clearcut. But as long as there’s a plan on paper to regenerate that forest, many seem to assume that it is happening, despite limited study of what is actually growing back and how well that regrowth meets the ecological values that were lost following harvest, especially its vast boreal forest. The Government of Canada’s annual "State of Canada’s Forests” report focuses on Canada’s low deforestation rate but didn’t mention at all about “forest degradation”.
After NRDC released powerful evidence of continued logging in boreal forest areas that were placed under a logging moratorium via the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA), Resolute Forest Products came back with a media statement that underscored governments’ role in regulating forest clearcutting. "It’s the Quebec government that gives companies permission to go and harvest on these lands," said company spokesperson Karl Blackburn. “We do not go where we want. We go where the government allows us to go."
Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a history land tenure issues, but more recently they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. Some conflicts, however, remain unaddressed and a new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still feeling the effects of losing traditional forests to make way for plantations.
The yearlong ban on logging across all of Myanmar since April 2016 was lifted at the end of March 2017, and now the Myanmar government says it is on its way to bringing verifiably legal timber to the international market. Although a number of illegal activities were prevented by the government, illegal logging continued during the ban due to insufficiently collaboration. International buyers and local NGOs are concerned that Myanmar is not doing enough to keep its forests safe.
Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today. When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31% increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
China has completely banned the felling of natural forests for commercial purposes, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA). China had previously made a three-step plan to phase out deforestation, starting with the worst deforested areas and setting the end of 2017 as the deadline for a complete national halt on deforestation. China will step up efforts to plan and establish 20 national forest reserves in seven key areas, in hopes of reducing the country's dependence on timber imports to less than 30 percent by 2030.
Hivos and Greenpeace Netherlands, together with indigenous groups from the Amazon rainforest, are launching a new campaign against deforestation called ‘All eyes on the Amazon’. Studies show that indigenous communities living in rainforests are crucial to the sustainable protection of these areas. This programme will aim to give indigenous communities the tools, knowledge and contacts to combat deforestation. It will also use satellite technology and drone photography to give indigenous groups evidence of the deforestation that is occurring.
Norway has donated $100 million to start a fund to halt deforestation, with Unilever being the first corporate investor to the fund pledging $25 million over five years. This was announced at the World Economic Forum and the fund’s aim is to ‘safeguard more than 5 million hectares of peatlands and forests’. This fund was created under the ‘Tropical Forest Alliance 2020’ umbrella which brings together leaders of public institutions and private companies to eliminate deforestation from supply chains.
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.
Vietnam has largely succeeded in reforestation within its border. Started in the 1980s, accompanying the transition to a market-driven economy, forestry management moved to a multi-sector approach with NGOs, businesses, local communities and management boards involved from originally government control. In 2008, Vietnam become a REDD pilot country, and both Forest Trends and FAO have recorded the increase in forest cover in Vietnam. However, challenge still exits. The demand for wood products in Vietnam is high, and now the country imports much from Cambodia, where illegal and unsustainable loggings happen frequently.
According to the new report released by The international policy organization (Interpol), corruption in the forestry sector globally costs about $29 billion annually, with bribery as the most common form. The study finds that the forestry sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption as many forests since many forests are located in placed where governance and regulatory regimes are poor. Also, the point when corruption occurs most frequently is at the harvest, identified in another study Interpol collaborated with TREES project. Recommendations including policy and legislative reforms, capacity building, financial investigations, and Interpol anti-corruption investigators were provided to reduce the risk of corruption in forestry operations.
A recent analysis by Monitoring the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) finds that deforestation is pressing further into a protected area in central Peru. Located in central Peru's Amazon rainforest, El Sira is home to several indigenous groups, as well as endangered species found nowhere else and surrounded by deforestation for cropland, cattle pasture, and gold mining. According to the analysis, these activities have invaded the northern portion of El Sira reserve, with 1,600 hectares of forest cleared since 2013.