In this issue: policy proposals in Indonesia could bring changes to forests; NGOs squabble over forest certification; Malaysia seeks to finalise a VPA by year end; WWF’s conservation strategies come under fire.
Indonesian Policy Proposals Could Bring Change to Forests
A number of proposed changes to Indonesian forest policy over the past month indicate that lawmakers are changing their approach to the nation’s forest resources. The changes are in the form of a tax hike, new laws on illegal logging, and relations between Jakarta and the provinces on forest use.
The Indonesian government plans to raise fees and charges on the commercial use of forestry resources in an attempt to increase non-tax income from the sector according to news reports.
Under current forestry law, developers are required to obtain business-use permits before undertaking commercial activities within forestry zones. On April 5, the Ministry of Forests announced that it intends to increase the fee for business use permits to four million rupiah ($410) per hectare per year – one-third higher than the current fee rate.
Indonesian Forestry Minister has stated that the extra fee is designed to boost the Government’s non-tax income from forestry activities to between 4 and 6 trillion rupiah in 2013 and 2014. He also stated that the fee specifically targets the mining sector, rather than the forest industry.
The Indonesian House of Representatives is also currently considering a new law on illegal logging, which has come under considerable fire from human rights groups as well as Indonesia-based environmental groups.
The ‘P2H’ law have raised the ire of indigenous groups such as AMAN, claiming that the law will criminalise ordinary activity undertaken by indigenous people and local communities.
The groups have pointed out that the laws make carrying a chainsaw into a forested area and offense, and that cutting a tree with a diameter of more than 10cm illegal. The laws also define ‘organised crime’ as two or more people.
Other groups objecting the proposed law include Wahli and Telapak. Western environmental groups are yet to comment on the law.
Finally, Jakarta and the special territory of Aceh appear to have reached an agreement over forest use in the territory.
Aceh officials have revised the territory’s spatial plan, which will convert more than 1 million ha of protected forest into production forest. The change means that the forest area will be open for use for forestry and mining.
The spatial plan requires approval from the Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta as well as Acehnese lawmakers.
Federal and territorial lawmakers have previously disagreed on land and forest use in the territory. This was highlighted earlier this year when a dispute arose over forest clearing in Tripa.
Aceh gained special autonomous status within Indonesia in 2005 as part of a peace deal with Jakarta after decades of civil unrest.
Environmental campaigners have reacted angrily to the announcement. The new law also puts doubt on the effectiveness of the Indonesian deforestation moratorium, which expires in May.
NGOs squabble over APP, certification
Non-governmental organisations and environmental campaigners are engaged in a squabble over the new conservation policies of Indonesia-based Asia Pulp and Paper. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and its proxy groups in Indonesia (RPHK) have gone head-to-head with The Forest Trust and Greenpeace over claims of forest clearance.
On April 4, WWF accused the company of breaching its own new conservation guidelines. Specifically, it claims that two of the company’s suppliers were clearing natural forest areas.
The Forest Trust then undertook a field investigation that determined that there were no management links between APP and the two companies, and that the forest clearance had taken place well before the new conservation policy was introduced.
Despite this report, WWF then claimed that the group was not adequately consulted during the field-based verification.
The apparent dispute between TFT and WWF follows on from a more public spat between TFT CEO Scott Poynton, and WWF Vice President of Markets Jason Clay.
As part of the Skoll World Forum’s series on deforestation, Poynton took clear aim at certification systems supported by WWF such as FSC, describing them as weak.
Clay responded by stating that “every credible certification that we support has strong anti-deforestation criteria.”
Poynton then launched a further missive, stating that FSC is “greenwashing illegal timber” in China, assisted by WWF’s GFTN program, describing it as “collusion at its worst.”
Malaysia launches legality verification; EUTR prompts shift in EU markets
Malaysia has launched of its legality verification scheme, MYTLAS, and hopes to ink a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the European Union by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, UK timber peak bodies have noticed a significant shift in timber markets since the introduction of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
At a forest policy forum held in Ghana earlier this month, Malaysia’s plantations and commodities minister stated that the country hopes to finalise the agreement by the end of the year.
EU Ambassador to Malaysia Luc Vandenbon also stated that “Countries that have Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) VPAs with the EU will be able to export their timber on a fast ‘greenlane’”.
However, Indonesian Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry Had Daryanto has written to the EU’s Ambassador to Indonesia Julian Wilson, objecting to the agreement with Malaysia.
The EU and Malaysia and had originally proposed that the states of Sabah and Sarawak be excluded from the VPA, but they are now to be included.
According to comments by Hadi in Indonesian media, the two states are responsible for importation of significant amounts of illegally exported Indonesian timber, which is then ‘laundered’ as Malaysian timber.
Hadi has also threatened cancellation of the VPA if the EU does not respond to his letter.
In Europe, the EUTR is driving changes to timber purchases according to industry sources. The Timber Trades Journal reports that importers are reducing the number of suppliers and ceasing business with those unable to provide necessary information to comply with the EU’s due diligence requirements.
Importers have already ceased purchasing framire from the Ivory Coast completely due to lack of documentation, and are substituting this with Cameroonian sapele.
Importers have also criticised the EU for effectively ‘cutting off’ suppliers, and have called for the EU to provide greater resources assisting legal suppliers that are unable to implement the systems required for compliance.
WWF’s protected area management flawed: Study
A new study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal has found that the indicators and methodology currently being used by WWF to guide protected area policy and investment decisions are futile in practice and disconnected from the drivers of deforestation.
Researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) have examined 66 protected areas across the Brazilian Amazon and performed a critical analysis of the Rapid Assessment and Prioritisation of Protected Area Management (RAPPAM) tool.
This tool was originally developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and has since been deployed in over 2000 protected areas in more than 50 countries.
RAPPAM is effectively a questionnaire, which asks protected area managers to rank 90 qualitative statements on a four-point scale, based on how well the statement applies to their protected area site.
However, this latest UM study has found that there is no statistically signiﬁcant association between avoided deforestation and the various RAPPAM indicators. According to Christopher Nolte, co-author of the study, the investigation showed that RAPPAM scores for factors such as budget, staff, equipment, management plans and stakeholder collaboration do not have a strong link to deforestation outcomes.
The article states, “Our analysis casts first doubt about the extent to which RAPPAM data – as it is – can assist in the prioritization of conservation policy, management and resource allocation.” Instead the study concluded that the absence of unsettled land tenure conﬂicts was the factor that most consistently and strongly associated with successfully reducing deforestation pressures. Thus, the researchers argued that: “land tenure conflicts may be such an important factor in shaping deforestation success that it overshadows the potential importance of other factors.”
Developing countries protest against REDD
At the recent World Social Forum (WSF) a large group of African participants launched the No REDD in Africa Network as a protest against the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme. The protest highlighted REDD’s inherent failings, but also reflected a growing disconnect between the priorities of developing countries and donor nations.
The WSF is the largest international gathering of social movement organisations, with about 50,000 people attending this year’s event in Tunisia. At the forum a decision was undertaken by a group of Africans from Nigeria, South Africa, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mozambique, Tunisia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania to launch the “No REDD in Africa Network”.
The new Network has called for REDD+ to be abandoned because it encourages the ‘lock up of forests,’ ‘loss of land’ and ‘new risks for the poor’. REDD+ is a carbon offset mechanism, which seeks to incentivise developing countries into reducing emissions and investing in low-carbon development pathways, by attributing a financial value to the carbon stored in forests.
The Network’s concerns stem from a recent study that was undertaken by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant movement, on the N’hambita REDD project in Mozambique, which argued that thousands of farmers have been paid meagre amounts for tending trees over several years. The study also expressed concern that REDD projects are threatening food security and could amount to instances of ‘carbon slavery.’
In a recent press release, Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and a member of the No REDD in Africa Network, also said that “REDD is no longer just a false solution but a new form of colonialism.” The Network has also received strong support from a number of African civil society groups.
UNFF praises China on forestry
The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) has praised China’s reforestation and afforestation efforts and has called on the nation to export its reforestation programs.
At the body’s most recent meeting in Istanbul, UNFF director Jan McAlpine stated, “During my recent trip to China, I [was] very impressed by how China has set up sustainable management of the forests.”
McAlpine and other officials urged China to export its “innovative pilot programs” to the rest of the world, according to Xinhua newsagency.
Over the past decade China’s forest area has increased from 1.34 million square km to 1.95 million square km and forest coverage increased from 14 per cent to 20 per cent.
Numerous NGOs including Greenpeace have launched campaigns against commercial forest exploitation, particularly in Yunnan Province.
On a less positive note, the UNFF Secretariat’s funding appears to be in a precarious state. Despite a record number of contributions to the fund, the UNFF only has budget allocations for six staff members.
Most contributions from donors have been earmarked for specific projects rather than for funding for the UNFF itself.
This follows a pattern in forest programs in multilateral organisations such as the FAO, which have found themselves under the sway of donor-specific interests.