The UK is to spearhead a major global crackdown on illegal timber and deforestation, with plans to form a coalition of developing countries against the trade as part of its hosting of crunch UN climate talks this year. All countries are expected to come forward with tougher plans to reduce global emissions as part of COP 26, and experts have said this will only happen if the UK takes the lead in forming a coalition of small and big developing countries, including forested African nations and Indonesia, as well as major economies such as the US, China, India and the EU. Offering assistance to developing countries, in the form of finance and technical expertise, will be vital to that effort.
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China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, according to the state planner, as it seeks to tackle one of the country’s biggest environmental problems. Plastic bags to be banned in all major cities by end of 2020, and banned in all cities and towns in 2022, says state planner.
An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused, according to two separate reports published by Global Labour Justice on gender-based violence in garment supply chains. More than 540 female workers at factories that supply the Gap and H&M have described incidents of threats and abuse. The reports claim that these allegations recorded between January and May this year in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads. Gap and H&M are going to investigate the allegations and they welcome initiatives to tackle violence, including an ILO convention.
A study shows that recycled plastics from electrical and electronic goods used in toy manufacturing which contains brominated flame retardants is putting the health of children exposed to them at risk. Brominated flame-retarding chemicals have been associated with lower mental, psychomotor and IQ development, poorer attention spans and decreases in memory and processing speed. In February EU restrict the use of one such substance, DecaBDE, but also allowed exemptions. Meanwhile, the substances may still be found in imported products that have been recycled in countries like China, which means buying something on the market because the company likes the design then they may bring products into the EU that contain substances that are not allowed.
More than 30 environmental groups have signed a statement against the renewal of regional forest agreements (RFAs) for the logging of Australian native forests. A report shared last week by the National Park Association of NSW showed that the logging has resulted in an increase of threatened species. It also noted that the agreements designed in 1990 didn’t acknowledge how the loss of forests would contribute to climate change. The environmental groups stand firm and will not accept any extensions, rollovers or renewals.
Plans to allow logging inside Tasmanian world heritage forests have been abandoned after a United Nations report recommended against it. The UN also expressed concern about plans for expanded tourism in the area and called for a master plan that would detail what sorts of tourism would and wouldn’t be allowed. The recommendations were immediately accepted by the state and federal governments.
Over a dozen African countries to tackle Climate change and boost development by restoring 100m hectares of forest across the continent over the next 15 years. The initiative known as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) was launched during COP21. It will be underpinned by a $1bn investment from the World Bank in 14 African countries over the next 15 years and by $600m of private sector investment over the same period.
The initiative will also be supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the World Resources Institute.
- Forest Sourcing
- The Guardian
- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative
- Climate Change
- Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development
- New Partnership for Africa’s Developmet
- World Resources Institute
Auditors say EU scheme to tackle $100bn global trade in illegal timber is poorly designed, badly managed and largely ineffective. Four EU countries – Greece, Spain, Hungary and Romania – have still not implemented an EU timber regulation proposed five years ago, allowing an easy passage to market for the fruits of deforestation. While on the supply side, part of the problem rests with a poor prioritisation of aid, the auditors say. Liberia received €11.9m to tackle illegal logging, when its yearly wood exports to the EU only averaged €5m.
Tasmania’s government wants to open up nearly 200,000 hectares of their 1.5m hectare world heritage area for logging. The Tasmanian government has stressed that new tourism infrastructure and ‘selective’ logging in the area, which makes up around 20% of the state’s land mass, will boost the state’s struggling economy. Environmentalists claim that this would undermine the essence of world heritage values and The UN has called for a blanket ban on logging and mining in this world heritage area, demanding the Tasmanian government rethink its new management plan for the site.
Negotiators in Bonn reached agreement on Redd+ scheme to reduce emissions from deforestation which will form part of Paris climate pact. One major issue was the protection of indigenous peoples and valuable ecosystems generated from protecting forest. In the process, tougher safeguards and transparency are necessary, and better communication and more field visits are key to the result. Also a deep base of sharing of knowledge and trust are needed to move forward.
New research has shown that Brazil and Indonesia paid over $40bn in subsidies to industries that drive rainforest destruction between 2009 and 2012 - compared to $346m in conservation aid they received to protect forests. The report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) encouraged a ‘radical rethink’ of how subsidies for commodities are assigned. ODI identify part of the problem in a lack of coordination between environment ministries and other government departments seeking to protect commodity exports and reduce rural poverty. The ODI have called for subsidy reform allowing a model of forest finance to protect forests and their surrounding rural communities.
Large scale landowners are estimated to be responsible for around half of deforestation in the Amazon, compared to 12 per cent by smallholders, but a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has found that since 2005, the contribution to annual deforestation by the largest landowners has fallen by 63 per cent, while that of smallholders has increased by 69 per cent. In 2013, overall deforestation increased by 28 per cent compared with the previous year. One of the authors said that part of the reason for the rise was that many conservation areas had been scaled down or had their protection status changed, and flagship public-private initiatives, such as a moratorium on trading soya beans from newly deforested areas in the Amazon, were about to end. Furthermore, a boom in infrastructure projects in the Amazon since 2009, including the building of new roads and dams, may also be contributing to Brazil’s rising deforestation rates. The report recommended schemes that would provide credit to Brazil’s 6 million small landowners living in rural areas in the Amazon and promote more efficient farming techniques among small farmers and large landowners.
China has halted commercial logging by state firms in forests in the vast north-eastern province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, home to much of the country’s timber industry, a move experts see as a significant step to curb over-exploitation of timber. The central government has allocated 2.35bn yuan a year to cover forestry workers’ living costs between 2014 and 2020. During the last century, warfare and unrest depleted and damaged the forests. More recently, economic growth has taken a further toll. There are concerns about the long-term ecological impacts if management of the forests does not improve with the region being an important agricultural zone and concerns about deforestation disrupting rainfall patterns.
A tree-by-tree battle between activists and timber workers more than three decades in Tasmania tore apart the Apple Isle. Finally, a historic peace deal came in 2012. Hodgman’s government removed 400,000 hectares of native forest from reserves, designing it “future potential production forest land” – available to be logged in six years’ time. The Hodgman government is also putting anti-protest laws aimed squarely at the environment movement. Plantations in Africa, south-east Asia and South America had come online and flooded the solid wood and woodchip markets with cheap, plentiful supply. Tasmania’s major green groups are plotting their next steps. The Hodgman government has created a ministerial council to advise on the future of the state’s forestry industry, without any environmentalist invited. The Hodgman government’s pro-logging drive makes the negotiations between environmentalists and the industry impossible.
The Tasmanian government has terminated a four-year forestry peace deal to allow widespread logging in the protected 400,000 hectare area in six years’ time. The Liberal state government claims that the protection of such a large area of forest has hindered job creation. Will Hodgman, Tasmania’s premier said “For more than 30 years, environmentalists have progressively locked up hectare after hectare of productive forests, destroying businesses and jobs, regional communities and livelihoods. We took a clear plan to the election to say ‘enough is enough’ and rip up the job-destroying forest deal.” Environmentalists argue that the state’s native forests are far more valuable left standing. Tasmania’s tourism industry employs around 15% of the state’s workforce, compared to around 1% of people employed in the forestry sector.
A new study, which claims to be the most comprehensive yet, suggests that nearly twice as much primary forest is being cut down in Indonesia as in Brazil, the historical global leader, despite Brazil’s forest area being roughly four times the size of Indonesia’s. According to the government's former head of forestry data gathering nearly 1m extra hectares of primary forest may have been felled in the last 12 years than was recorded officially.
Following a two year investigation, Greenpeace have uncovered evidence of systematic abuse and a flawed monitoring system in Brazil, a country whose government claims to be coping with deforestation. The loggers use a variety of techniques, including over-reporting the number and size of rare trees and logging trees that are protected by law. Greenpeace’s new report, entitled “The Amazon’s silent crisis” can be accessed here.
A new report titled ‘Logging Concessions Enable Illegal Logging Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon’ has found that the Peruvian Forest Law is being exploited for illegal purposes. Loggers are required to declare which individual, GPS-referenced trees will be cut in a one or five year period. As a result many have invented the existence of trees, they then log in other areas and claim trees came from inside their concessions and use the paperwork from these concessions to “prove” it. In over half the cases violations have related to CITES-listed cedar species. Nearly 70% of the concessions inspected have been suspected of “major violations”. This follows what was supposed to be a strengthening of the law through a trade agreement between Peru and the United States in 2009. The report’s authors say the root of the problem is that the authorities only check the regulatory documents in transport or at port arrival well after the logging has taken place. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has previously been highly critical of Peruvian logging practices highlighting the abuse of migrant workers and strategies designed to confuse the authorities in order to cover up illegal logging.
A new Global Witness report, ‘Deadly Environment’, shows there has been a surge in the killing of activists protecting land rights and the environment over the past decade with three times as many deaths in 2012 compared to the previous 10 years. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 activists were killed in 35 countries with only 10 convictions. The most deadly countries in the scope of the report were Brazil (448 since 2002), Honduras (109), Philippines (67), Peru (58) and Thailand (16). The deaths are linked to activism against a range of activities including illegal logging, cattle ranching, soy bean farming, mining and the building of hydroelectric dams.