Forestry and Poverty Project Newsletter – Issue 10, January 2010

RAN at NY Fashion Week: More Poverty-Making Ruckus

US-based environmental campaign group Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has indicated it will use New York’s fashion week next month to continue its greenmail campaign against paper products from Indonesia.

RAN is regarded in public policy circles in Washington DC as one of the more disreputable and reckless environmental activist groups.

Its latest strategy is to threaten to name brand name fashion businesses as anti-environmental if they don’t join its campaign to boycott paper products from Indonesia.

RAN is a partner in a long-term campaign with Greenpeace and WWF to pressure tropical developing countries to halt forestry, regardless of the impact on poverty or the measures these countries have taken to set up large forest conservation areas.

RAN’s pitch is the claim that Indonesian paper producers are responsible for the wholesale destruction of Indonesia’s forests, and therefore biodiversity loss and increased carbon emissions.

The reality is different and shows grim indifference by RAN to the plight of the poor.  RAN’s solution is to boycott products from industries which create jobs.

As Africa’s first female Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya explains, the solution to deforestation is to end poverty.

Countless, in-depth research reports provide powerful statistical evidence of this fact: most deforestation is caused by poverty: people cut down trees to either sell the wood, or clear the land to grow crops and provide shelter.

RAN has previously been criticized for exploiting the plight of the poor to raise money.  RAN campaigners have raised funds in the name of the indigenous Penan tribe, forest dwellers in Malaysia. Yet they did not pass any of the fundraising money to the tribe itself.

To the best of our knowledge, RAN has never planted a single tree in Indonesia. Or managed conservation programs that protect the wildlife it purports to care so much about.

It would seem that RAN’s strategy is simply to shame wealthy companies into donating money to RAN’s campaign fund.

In boycotting Indonesian paper, these companies boycott products from sustainable plantations and factories which employ more than 3.5 million people. They also undermine the very businesses which promote sustainable practices in forestry.

RAN gives the fashion industry a choice – win plaudits from RAN for supporting a seemingly bogus cause, or undermine strategies to reduce poverty in Indonesia. 36 million people in Indonesia live below the poverty line.
‘Amazongate’ – WWF Outed as Serial Exaggerators

‘Climategate’ has moved to ‘Amazongate’.  It has been revealed that another unsupportable claim, this time about the impacts of deforestation on precipitation in the Amazon forests, has been found in the IPCC report on the impacts of global warming.  The source of this assertion was a WWF report. This is no surprise to World Growth.

World Growth reports chronicle many instances of WWF claims about forestry that do not stand scrutiny.  We however are not the first.  Others precede us.

Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” outed WWF for unsupported claims when he queried a media release in 1997 by WWF UK that new research showed two thirds of the world’s forests had been lost.  The conventional number was 20-25 per cent.  When Lomborg asked to see the research report, he was told there was none.

This was the year environmental groups sensationalized Indonesian forest fires.  It was part of a global campaign to renew their long-standing ambition to restrict forestry in developing countries.  WWF President Claude Martin declared 1997 “the year the Earth burnt”, announcing that more forest was burnt in Indonesia that year than in history.

Lomborg vivisected the statement.  First, the WWF numbers included a large amount of burnt land  that was not forest.  (Official Indonesian numbers were one-tenth of WWF’s). Second, on average, annual burning of forest in China and Russia exceeded the area claimed in Indonesia that year.  Third, fires in Indonesia more than a decade before burnt a larger area.

WWF also claimed fires in Brazil were on the same scale.  There was no supporting evidence.  The Brazil’s Institute for Environmental Research reported that 72 per cent of the land was not forest, but cleared land.

WWF’s use of statistics extends beyond Indonesia and Brazil.  One WWF report claimed 70 per cent of forestry in Papua New Guinea  was illegally logged.  There was no supporting evidence.  That WWF report was cited in another as a source document.  Recent independent research in Australia indicates that rigor of inspection of exported logs in PNG by auditing firm SGS makes claims of high rates of illegal logging in PNG unlikely. Nevertheless, WWF is using these claims to lobby the EU and the Australian Government to ban timber imports from PNG.

WWF claims Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of Greenhouse gases.  Analysis of those claims by World Growth shows they also cannot be supported.  One assumption is that forest fires will continue every year at the same rate as the worst high fires years.  That is not so.

Nevertheless, WWF has consistently secured funding to advance its forestry goals from Western donors and foundations.   Last year WWF operations worldwide turned over around US $400 million.  Around ten per cent was from public sources.


Copenhagen and Forestry: What Happens Now?

December’s UNFCCC conference was, according to most commentators, a significant setback for the climate negotiating process.  Environmental campaigners and European Union officials were dismayed by the lack of binding targets.  Businesses in the developed world are now faced with decisions on carbon-cutting policies being taken domestically – opening up a new set of political challenges.

For developing economies, the lack of progress in the negotiations means that governments are able to continue to implement pro-growth, anti-poverty strategies without compromising for a mythical ‘low carbon development’ path that has been promoted by Green economists.

Few developing countries made public commitments to carbon reductions. The only large developing nation that has in Indonesia, which promised reductions of 26 per cent. This is greater than anything promised by developed nations at Copenhagen.

Jakarta’s Forestry Fixation

A number of Indonesian government officials have already publicly stated that it will rely heavily upon the forestry sector in order to meet its announced emissions reductions.

World Growth, backed by IPCC and UNFCCC research, has made the point that the use of forestry is one of the most cost-effective means sequestering carbon.

Initial documents have indicated that the Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF), to be launched later this month, concentrates heavily upon afforestation, reforestation, lowland forest and peatland rehabilitation and avoided deforestation as a means of reducing emissions. The fund has initial financial backing from the UK, Norway, Australia and the US.

But there is a considerable difference between the ICCTF and other REDD-style programs that have been floated by development agencies.

First, it is a nationally-owned scheme. Unlike aid programs, where foreign funds are disbursed by aid agencies for implementation by external governments, the Indonesian Government will be in charge of how and where money is disbursed.

Second, the ICCTF is overseen by the Ministry for Planning (Bappenas) and the Ministry for Finance. This also distinguishes it from other climate change programs in developing countries, which are generally driven by environment ministries.

Anyone familiar with Indonesian land-use policy will be acutely aware that land-use planning in Indonesia is integral to the country’s growth opportunities. How land is designated – as production or plantation forest land, agricultural land, or conservation land – has a significant impact upon how the nations’ growing population is employed and fed.

Third, the emphasis upon reforestation and afforestation as well as calls for private sector participation does not at this stage appear to exclude plantations from forest projects – rejecting the stance taken by environmental campaigners that ‘plantations are not forests’.
The Indonesia Minister for Forests recently rejected calls from environmental campaigners calling for a logging moratorium, asking the question, “Can Greenpeace provide any solutions for the logging industry and people who make their living from forestry sector?” Similarly, the Chief Economic Minister stated that infrastructure projects and geothermal developments that are in the public interest would be permitted in forest conservation areas.

Hopefully, this is a forest and climate change fund that is as much about economic growth as the environment.

Showing Indonesia the Money

Developed countries have been eager to stump up pledges of cash for forest and climate programs in Indonesia. But in order to meet political objectives, they may have an anti-poor bent.

The United States Congress recently passed an appropriations bill that set aside US$1.2 billion for forest protection and climate mitigation strategies in developing countries. The bill provides US$200 million for biodiversity protection – but there’s a catch. It also states that none of the funds in the Act itself may be used for any activity that directly or indirectly supports ‘industrial-scale logging’ or resource extraction, or any forestry sector reforms.

There are two critical problems here. First, is that ‘industrial scale logging’ is a term that is used in the policy debate by two NGOS: Greenpeace and Global Witness. Both have campaigned against sustainable forest management (SFM) as a tool for climate mitigation or good environmental management.

Second, sectoral reform and commercial forestry arguably provide better biodiversity outcomes than outright conservation programs. In Indonesia, for example, commercial forestry plantations are regularly used as buffer zones around conservation areas. In Kalimantan, commercial acacia plantations have been found to support orang-utan populations.

Commercial forestry in developing countries has long been demonised by Green groups; that elected officials would support their views is nothing new. Unfortunately forest industries in the developed world are also now siding with the Greens for their own protectionist purposes.


Protectionism and Asian Paper Products

A perfect storm of policy forces lined up against the Indonesian and Chinese paper producers in early 2008. At least one of the campaigns attacking the Asian producers has been shown as false.

It was the perfect campaign. After years of campaigning by environmental groups against the Indonesian paper industry, Australian unions and manufacturers joined the chorus in early 2008.

Their target was Asia Pulp and Paper, which had made its presence felt in the Australian toilet paper market through Australia’s largest supermarket retailer, Woolworths.

Union-aligned interests commenced the ‘Wake Up Woolworths’ campaign, attacking the Indonesian company on environmental grounds and claiming that the imported papers were costing Australian jobs.

Australia’s two largest toilet paper manufacturers – Kimberly Clark Australia (KCA) and SCA Hygiene – started lobbying for trade measures against the company’s exports from Indonesia and China. They claimed that the toilet paper was being sold at below-market prices and that the Australian industry was suffering disproportionately. A government investigation was launched.

Woolworths eventually capitulated to the union actions. It ended its contract with APP.

The Australian government initially sided with the manufacturers. Yet the first investigation was flawed. A reinvestigation was ordered, which reported at the end of December.

The reinvestigation stated that, yes, KCA and SCA were suffering, but it had little to do with imported toilet paper. There were other factors at work, such as the arrival of a highly competitive third player in the Australian market, ABC Tissue, that was running an efficient, non-unionised operation using imported pulp to produce high-end products.

The alignment of business, trade union and environmental concerns was not unlike a similar case in the US, when the Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers Union and NewPage, a paper company, launched action against paper imported to the US from China, Indonesia and Korea. The US International Trade Commission ended up putting no tariffs on the imports.

Common sense also prevailed in the Australian investigation, but the damage has been done nonetheless. APP – which has been doing much for the environment of late, such as working with the United Nations to set aside a biosphere reserve in Sumatra – has has been put through the wringer in order to protect an industry whose main competitive threats are domestic, not international.

In the business world, some would regard this type of behaviour as unethical. So much for corporate responsibility.

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