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.
A union of palm oil smallholders is challenging the allocation of a billion-dollar fund that they say fails to help them rejuvenate their low-yielding oil palms and instead unfairly subsidizes large biofuel producers. Only 1 percent of the fund went to the smallholder replanting program last year, while 89 percent went to the biodiesel subsidy. The government has promised to amend the split to 22:70 this year. But the government has also defended the subsidy, saying it needs to artificially boost the price of crude palm oil, to make biodiesel competitive with the regular diesel sold in the country — which is also subsidized by the state.
The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force. Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry. The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.
A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo. The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted.
Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever. POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.
Hardwood Dimensions, a timber importer in the U.K., violated the EU Timber Regulation by not properly verifying the legality of a shipment of Cameroonian ayous in January 2017. A judge ordered Hardwood Dimensions to pay 4,000 pounds ($5,576) plus court costs in the case. The case calls into question the effectiveness of Forest Stewardship Council certification, which Hardwood Dimensions has held since 2000.
In a recent referendum, 67.5 percent of Ecuador’s voting population voted in favor increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares. Ishpingo Field, which forms part of Block 43 of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) Initiative, is the only field that has not yet been exploited. Drilling was slated to begin there in mid-2018, but the referendum’s “yes” vote may prevent exploitation. Ishpingo is located on Yasuni’s Intangible Zone, which protects Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Environmentalists hope that a technical commission will be formed to define where the Intangible Zone will expand.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says decking on luxury yachts made in the UK have illegal wood on them. EU rules dictate that point of origin in the chain of sale must be legally-sourced teak from Myanmar. Princess Yachts International and Sunseeker International, both singled out by the EIA in their statement, will be at the London Boat Show this week.
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.
British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. Retailers have so far not used their leverage over Cargill to compel it to support a soy moratorium expansion.
Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic metres (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in payments from Vietnamese timber traders. Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 had very little effect.
Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a history land tenure issues, but more recently they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. Some conflicts, however, remain unaddressed and a new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still feeling the effects of losing traditional forests to make way for plantations.
Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today. When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31% increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
FSC in Brazil is now working with BVRio, the organization that set up the Responsible Timber Exchange in late 2016. BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber, 30% of which was FSC-certified. The partnership with FSC is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
A report by World Economic Forum and Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 states that the transfer to deforestation-free supply chains could represent an investment opportunity of approximately US$ 200 billion annually. However, although companies are making commitments to deforestation-free pulp and paper in their supply chain, due to the underestimation of the risk, they may have issues meeting their time bound commitments.
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.
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.
President of Indonesia signed into law on Dec. 1, a new crucial regulation on peatland management, intending to call time on untrammelled commercial development of the archipelago’s vast peat swamp zones, which have been widely drained and dried by the palm oil and paper industries. The new regulation was praised by some observers as previously peatland development was only mandated by presidential guidelines. However, environmental pressure groups said that the new regulation may continue to trigger fires and the collapse of peat ecosystems. Greenpeace and Wetlands International say the government has not done enough to move on from destructive land use.
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.
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.