Forestry and Poverty Project Newsletter – Issue 34 Issue 34, April 2012

Developing Countries Rebuff EU in on first day of Rio20 pre-talks

Developing countries have dealt EU ambitions at the Rio20 meeting in June a severe blow, blocking the European goal to have valuations of ecosystem services incorporated into a final text on forests and biodiversity.

On the first day of pre-negotiations for the meeting, the G-77 and China negotiating group – which represents more than 132 countries and 80 per cent of the world’s population – obliquely demanded that all references to valuations of ecosystem services be removed from the negotiating text.

The group frustrated EU negotiators further when it requested that references to ‘social and environmental’ costs of goods be integrated into the text on sustainable production and consumption be removed.

The blocking action follows a fractious month for the EU in its negotiations with developing nations on environmental issues.

Earlier in April, India’s environment minister had described the EU’s recent imposition of carbon emissions tax on aircraft landing in the 27-nation bloc as ‘unacceptable’. He also said that the tax would ultimately be a ‘dealbreaker’ in the climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (INFCCC), which has a major meeting scheduled for May in Bonn, Germany.

The EU has been maintaining an overtly Green position in the lead-up to the talks. The European Commission has given an indication of where it will be heading in the talks in a paper that has been broadly supported by the UN Secretary General.

The paper calls for the elevation of environmental issues above social and economic, which was a key plank of the original Agenda 21 document that was produced at the Rio conference in 1992.

The paper describes forests and the millions of people in developing countries dependent upon forests for their existence. It also states that forests, agriculture and livelihoods are underpinned by ecosystems and biodiversity, leading into a call for recognition of the economic value of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is neatly coupled with a call to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity by implementing sustainable agriculture using methods such as organic farming.

It’s little wonder that the developing countries want no part of this.

Greenpeace Indonesia Accused of Embezzling Funds

Indonesian student activists have accused international campaign group Greenpeace of embezzling funds, according to news reports in Indonesia.

According to local newspapers, student group Alianso Mahasiswan Tolak LSM Asing (aka TIM5) has lodged an official complaint with Jakarta police over the disappearance of donations and the misuse of international donations. The group is a coalition of five different student groups in Indonesia.

TIM5 coordinator Rudy Gani told Indonesian media that the allegations stem from disparities between what Greenpeace claims it receives from public donations and its published financial records. According to Gani, the difference is as high as IDR22 billion (around USD 2 million).

Gani said that his concern was for the 30,000 people who make regular donations to Greenpeace who may be seeing their funds stolen. Gani also urged Greenpeace to investigate foreign donations to the NGO, which must meet government conditions to be legal.

The coalition had previously issued a number of statements against the international NGO, and had urged the government to investigate its operations, its financial dealings and its ‘anti-Indonesian’ campaign motives.

The action from TIM5 immediately follows international action by Greenpeace and other NGOs to lobby for an investigation into the issuance of an agricultural permit issued in Rawa Tripa, in Bandah Aceh.

New Forest Code Passes in Brazil

Brazil’s Congress has passed the country’s new forest code, leaving a possible veto by President DIlma Rousseff as the only barrier to the law being implemented. The passing of the new law has drawn significant ire from environmental groups.

The legislation was passed by a majority vote of 274-184. The Bill effectively updates the country’s 1965 forest code.

The key point of contention for environmental campaigners was the loosening of restrictions on agricultural land with forest cover, and the ‘grandfathering’ of illegal land-clearing by farmers that had not undertaken remedial works.

The CNA, Brazil’s leading farmers’ organisation has publicly commended the passing of the new law.

“This new legislation will prevent new deforestation while at the same time recognising the importance of the agriculture sector for the Brazilian economy,” CNA official Ahasuerus Dock Veronez told the Financial Times.

According to Veronez, a continually changing regime of laws and regulations has ‘criminalised’ farmers by retrospectively decreasing the amount of land they can use for farming.

WWF has described the passing of the Bill as ‘embarrassing’, despite the development of farmland in the Brazilian Amazon making Brazil the second-largest global producer of soybeans and spurring economic development.

Even though the passing of the law was transparent, democratic and legal, campaign groups such as Greenpeace and WWF have declared they will attempt to pressure President Rousseff into vetoing the Bill in the lead-up to the Rio+20 conference, which is to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June.

China, Asia remain key drivers for global timber industry

Recent analyses from the world’s leading timber market analysts show that both China and the rest of Asia will remain the leading growth drivers for global timber products. Europe and the US, however, can expect to lag behind.

British Columbia alone sent softwood lumber to the value of $1.1 billion to China in 2011, according to Campbell Group analysis. This was a 60 per cent year-on-year increase over 2010. The same period saw a 42 per cent increase in log exports from the US West Coast.

China is now the largest importer of US logs: a full 46 per cent of US los now go to China; 30 per cent of US lumber exports also go to China.

According to analysis by RISI, flagging demand in Europe and the US has been more than compensated for by rising demand in China. Both EU and US paper producers are struggling with over capacity for a large number of paper grades, putting downward pressure on paper prices.

Kimberly-Clark for example, recently closed down its Everett facility in Seattle and laid off more than 760 employees.  Similarly, NewPage, one of the world’s major fine paper companies recently filed for Chapter 11 protection, despite receiving a generous USD50 million government subsidy for a ‘bio-refinery’ plant, which it later shelved.

Measuring forest degradation not possible any time soon: FAO

The FAO has released a new paper that underlines the difficulties of measuring forest carbon stock changes. One of its key conclusions is that measuring stock changes caused by forest degradation is not possible in the near future.

The finding delivers a huge blow to the Western efforts on REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), which has always struggled with the ‘degradation’ part of the equation.

Negotiators and technical experts at this point had failed to come up with a uniform and acceptable definition of forest degradation.

The paper notes that measuring forest degradation is significantly more costly and expensive than attempts to measure deforestation, as the changes in the forest occur at the structural level and do not necessarily involve land-use change. This means that they cannot be measured using remote-level sensing.

The paper argues that in order to measure stock changes from forest degradation accurately, there must be consistent ground data to measure different types of activities taking place within forests, which includes selective logging, fuelwood removal and fire.

Simply, attempting to measure carbon changes from degradation is even more difficult that measuring deforestation – which itself has posed significant problems for researchers

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