Wake up to meaning of forests accord, EU is told


A slight change in the text of an agreement on deforestation is having deep and controversial effects, writes FRANK McDONALDin Bangkok

THE EU has been accused of colluding with the logging industry to downgrade the protection of forests – the world’s most important “carbon sinks” – and allow them to be replaced by timber plantations under the guise of “sustainable forest management”.

According to Greenpeace and other environmental groups, the risk is contained in a “small but extremely important” change in the text of the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) agreement being worked on by negotiators in Bangkok.

It centres on the substitution of “sustainable forest management (SFM) and forest conversion” for references in the 2007 Bali Action Plan to the “sustainable management of forests (SMF)”, a broader definition that includes local community use and conservation.

Since then, Greenpeace claims that the forestry sector has “sneaked” its own term, “sustainable forest management”, into the negotiation text – “industry-speak for industrial-scale logging” – and that Sweden, Finland and France played a role in making this change.

Laura Furones, of the Ecosystems Climate Alliance, said: “What is even more worrying is that European countries . . . do not even recognise the massive difference between these two terms,” and had simply gone along with the revised text that emerged yesterday.

“If this text is agreed, it means that the industry could continue logging old forests, accelerating climate change”, said Greenpeace’s forest policy expert, Grant Rosoman.

“Unless the wording is changed back, it will make a mockery out of REDD.” Under REDD, which is being promoted by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, headed by Kevin Conrad of Papua New Guinea, rich countries would get credits to offset against their emissions by contributing to the protection of forests in poorer nations.

Kenn Mondiai, of the Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum, said major logging was under way there, amounting to a “timber mining operation that’s upsetting the balance of nature and local communities as well as destroying a forest carbon sink for the planet”.

Globally, deforestation is estimated to account for up to 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

“To the layman, REDD should mean protecting the intact natural forests we have – that’s common sense. But this is something entirely different, it’s almost surreal.”

Mr Rosoman, who is Australian, said it was “quite shocking that the EU is not standing up for forest protection”. The new text it had agreed to “shows that even the last safeguards against conversion of natural forests to forest plantations have disappeared”.