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The climate is used as a pretext to increase forest harvests. Photo: Pixabay

Protect the Forest gives feedback on European Commission’s initiative to step up EU action against deforestation and forest degradation. The NGO calls on the EU to prevent forest companies from logging high conservation value forests and to establish large-scale tree plantations.

The growing European demand of biofuel crops increase the need of agricultural land, converting valuable habitats and displacing other crops, with serious impacts on food security and significant greenhouse gas emissions from land use change as a result.

Sweden and Finland promote their commercial forestry as sustainable and export it as a good example to producer countries in the tropics which lead to forest degradation. The Swedish and Finnish forest industries are, among others, strong lobbyists and use the climate as a pretext to increase their forest harvest, production and economic rates. By endorsing a so called bioeconomy, natural forests are systematically clear-cut and replaced by even-aged tree plantations, poor of species, to acquire alleged sustainable wood products and bioenergy.

Protect the Forest calls on the European Commission to, among other things:

• Stop the global destruction and felling of primary and natural forests. Protect the remaining peatland forests, old-growth forests and other high conservation value forests (HCVFs).

• Develop a strong legislation to ensure that imported agricultural and forest commodities to the EU are produced without causing deforestation and violating indigenous peoples’ rights.

• Immediately impose trade sanctions on any commodity being produced in areas where indigenous groups and territories are under threat from increased deforestation and genocide. Brazil is at the moment a high-risk country. Boycott products from conflict areas, such as soy from the mid-eastern part of Brazil.

• Immediately stop subsidizing forest and farming activities that contribute to deforestation and the cutting of natural forest. Restrict the trade of meat, soy and palm oil.

• Ban the import and use of palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) and soy oil in transport fuels in the EU.

• Introduce a tax on commodities based on their ecological footprint.

• Specify definitions and clear terms for so called ‘sustainable’ forestry and agricultural practices, which consider socio-ecological economics and policies that operate within the planetary boundaries. Today, arbitrary and vague definitions of the word ‘sustainable’ mislead and promote clear-cutting practices and increased expansion of tree plantations, which harm the biodiversity, offset greenhouse gases, and damage soil and water resources.

• Impose sanctions on EU companies that conduct industrial-scale commercial logging operations in HCVFs and establish monoculture tree plantations.

• Support the creation and implementation of the 200 million hectare Andes-Amazon-Atlantic Corridor to safeguard biodiversity and people, proposed by Amazonian indigenous leaders at the CBD COP14 in Egypt 2018.

• Promote forest restoration by favoring natural regeneration & natural forests, not monocultures.

• Support the use of nature-oriented and continuous cover forestry in forest areas without high conservation values in order to cause less detrimental effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to minimize the release of greenhouse gases from the forest.

• Introduce incentives to reduce the consumption of paper, forest products and other natural resources as well as reducing energy consumption and use. Promote energy efficiency and recycling.

The economic value of intact forests is far greater than the value of commodities especially in terms of providing functional ecosystem services in the long run. The EU supply chains must be free from deforestation and human rights violations. Voluntary commitments are not sufficient enough. The planetary boundaries for biodiversity and climate are already exceeded and catastrophic consequences are ahead if stringent biodiversity and climate mitigation measures are not urgently taken.

Read Protect the Forest's feedback on the EU-kommissionens plan here (short version). Read a longer version of the feedback here.

Large clear-cut conducted by Swedish state-owned company Sveaskog. Photo: Björn Mildh

The Swedish Parliament has recently voted for a budget which reduces the environmental and climate funds with SEK 2 billion (EUR 200 million). “A disaster which deliberately undermines national and international environmental targets”, states the Swedish environmental NGO Protect the Forest.

David van der Spoel, spokesperson for Protect the Forest, comments:

“Instead of protecting the last remaining unprotected natural forests in Sweden, these forests will now be logged in order to become pulp and biofuels. Both the biodiversity and the climate are put at risk, and in the long term it will also affect us human beings. Short-sightedness prevails.” 

Sweden generally considers itself to be progressive and world leading when it comes to environmental issues. The annual budget for 2019 shows the opposite, as the environmental part is reduced with SEK 2 billion (18 %). The part of the budget which is allocated to protecting valuable nature is reduced by approximately 50 %. It was presented in December by the conservative Swedish Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats and supported by the far-right party Sweden Democrats. Protect the Forest is dismayed and predicts increased logging of high conservation value forests.

”The budget undoubtedly favors both the forest industry and the aviation industry. Using palm oil from the tropics and forest biofuels from the boreal region to fuel air travels will lead to huge greenhouse gas emissions with devastating consequences for the climate. The biodiversity of the forest ecosystem is already deeply threatened and there is no more room for large-scale clear-cuts and species poor tree plantations,” says David van der Spoel.

The reduced environmental budget includes less economic compensation to land owners for forest protection, less new nature reserves, a VAT increase for nature tourism guides, and less support to companies that make climate investments. The nationwide inventory of woodland key habitats, i.e. high conservation value forests where red-listed species occur or are expected to occur, will be canceled. The tax on flights is abolished, which will most likely lead to increased flights and an increase in the demand of biofuels. 

Sweden is the world’s third largest exporter of paper, pulp and wood products. The reduced funding for nature conservation is due to a strong forest industry and its lobby work.  

“This budget clearly meets the economic interests of the forest industry which seemingly is more important than achieving environmental targets, safeguarding biodiversity and protecting forests. We urge the rest of the world to put pressure on the Swedish government and forest industry to take their responsibility to resume the inventories of woodland key habitats, to safeguard all remaining forests with high conservation values and to phase out the clear-cut forestry in favour of more continuous forest cover methods,” says Michael Nilsson, board member of Protect the Forest.

Protect the Forest concludes that trading with Swedish forest products is a risky business which discourages and counteracts climate mitigation efforts, forest protection, environmental targets and the Paris agreement. 

Contact:

David van der Spoel, spokesperson, Protect the Forest, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +46 70 315 70 44

 

The monoculture pine plantation in Kachung. Native species are cleared to make way for large tracts of single species pine and eucalypt. Photo: Kristen Lyons.

Yesterday, Oakland Institute sent a letter together with Protect the Forest, Climate Action Sweden, Friends of the Earth Sweden, Nature and Youth Norway, Timberwatch South Africa and Justica Ambiental i Mozambique to the Swedish Energy Agency regarding its Emissions Reductions Purchase Agreement with the Norwegian company Green Resources in Kachung in Uganda.

The Swedish Energy Agency has purchased carbon credits from a large Green Resources alien tree plantation (over 2,000 hectares) in Kachung in Uganda which has resulted in loss of lands, livelihoods and increased hunger for the local communities. The Agency has previously claimed that it suspended its payments to Green Resources and has been reassessing whether to resume the payments or not. However, it may turn out that the Swedish Energy Agency never suspended its payments to Green Resources.

Read the letter from the seven non-governmental organisations to the Swedish Energy Agency demanding that the Agency cancels its relationship with Green Resources here.

Please sign this action alert demanding justice for villagers in Kachung and Bukaleba in Uganda. 

Press release, November 7, 2018

An international coalition of more than 120 organisations from 40 countries today warns that the rapid global growth of the so-called bioeconomy poses a grave risk to the climate, nature, and human rights.

In addition to publishing an Open Letter, a petition is being launched today to coincide with the International Day of Action on Bioenergy which calls on governments around the world to support proven low carbon technologies, reduce overconsumption, and protect forests and other ecosystems.

In recent years, governments from countries such as Sweden, the UK, Brazil and South Korea have promoted burning forest biomass for energy as a substitute for fossil fuels. Yet a large and growing number of scientific studies show that burning biomass for energy emits no less carbon than burning coal, while also threatening biodiversity, and human rights.

Today, the industry and policymakers will gather in San Francisco for an event organised by the Biofuture Platform, an initiative supported by 20 countries and backed by organisations including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The Biofuture Platform promotes products made out of bio-materials as well as the wider bioeconomy.

"The BioFuture Platform actively promotes bioenergy and biomass products, which incentivizes more forest destruction. In the Southern US, we are already facing the insatiable appetite of European demand for biomass thanks to well-intentioned policies that have had damaging results. The bioeconomy harms our precious forests, rural communities, and the climate. In the wake of the latest UN IPCC report, it's clear that forests are our best defense against climate change and we need to keep them standing," said Rita Frost, campaign manager of Dogwood Alliance, which works to protect the Southern forests of the US. 

"Over the past year, reports of an up to 60% decline in animal populations worldwide and an 80% decline in insect populations in several regions have made the headlines, with habitat loss remaining the number one cause of biodiversity loss. Yet the Biofuture Platform and numerous governments are promoting policies which will accelerate habitat loss in favour of vastly more crop and tree monocultures for energy and materials," said Almuth Ernsting, co-director of Biofuelwatch, which campaigns on the impacts of large-scale bioenergy and bio-based products. 

"Demand for biofuels, woodchips, pellets, and charcoal is a major driver of forest destruction and land-grabbing across the global South. Realising the plans of the Biofuture Platform would require tens or even hundreds of millions of hectares of new plantations at a devastating cost to forests, indigenous peoples, other forest dependent and traditional communities, and small farmers" said Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, based in Bolivia.

“The bioeconomy poses a global threat. Instead of mitigating climate change, bioenergy risk increasing the carbon dioxide emissions at the same time as we continue to lose valuable forests. Natural forests need to be protected in order to safeguard the biodiversity and to prevent further emissons of greenhouse gases," said David van der Spoel, spokes person for the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest.  

The over 120 organisations call for an end to support for bioenergy and other short-lived bioproducts. In the era needing urgent action on climate change, the NGOs call for “meaningful and equitable responses to the climate crisis which respect human rights, focus on proven low-carbon technologies, reduce overconsumption and waste, and protect forests and other ecosystems.”

Read the NGO open letter here.

Sign the petition against BioFuture Platform as a private person here.

In January 2018, almost 800 scientists warned in an open letter that biofuels may emit more carbon than fossil fuels. 

References on the climate effects of biofuels

Booth, M. S. (2018). Not carbon neutral: Assessing the net emissions impact of residues burned for bioenergy. Environmental Research Letters 13 (3).

EASAC (2017). Multi-functionality and sustainability in the European Union’s forests. EASAC policy report 32.

Holtsmark, B. (2015). Quantifying the global warming potential of CO2 emissions from wood fuels. GCB Bioenergy 7(2), 195-206.

Ter-Mikaelian, M. T., Colombo, S. J. & Chen, J. (2015). The Burning Question: Does Forest Bioenergy Reduce Carbon Emissions? A Review of Common Misconceptions about Forest Carbon Accounting. Journal of Forestry 113 (1), 57-68.

Johnston, C. M. T. & van Kooten, G. C. (2015). Back to the past: Burning wood to save the globe. Ecological Economics 120, 185-193.

Hartmut, M. (2012). The Nonsense of Biofuels. Angewandte Chemie 51 (11): 2516-2518.

Contact

David van der Spoel, Skydda Skogen, +46 70-315 70 44, david.vanderspoel(@)skyddaskogen.se

Rita Frost, Dogwood Alliance, +1 512 4230620, rita(@)dogwoodalliance.org

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, +44 131 6232600, biofuelwatch(@)gmail.com

Katja Garson, Fern, +32 2 8944694, katja(@)fern.org 

Mary Louise Malig, Global Forest Coalition, +591 6 100-2627

A segment from the German documentary 'Who is protecting out forests?'.

The Forest Stewardship Council is the international organisation which sets standards on timber products to make sure that the world’s forests are managed responsibly. But does the organisation really protect the biodiversity of our forests? 

Valuable tropical forest is logged in Congo and the Amazon. Indigenous people lose their land. Forests are illegally logged in Cambodia and sold on the international market as FSC-certified via Vietnam. High conservation value forests are clear-cut in Sweden and Russia and replaced by tree plantations.

“This is not sustainable forestry. This is killing forestry. This is how you kill the ecosystem of the forest in Sweden”, says forest expert Sebastian Kirppu.

In the documentary, it is stated that the clear-cuts in Sweden would be illegal in Germany and France but in Sweden they are legal.

What has the FSC achieved since the organization was founded 25 years ago? A dramatically accelerating deforestation of the Earth.

Watch the German TV documentary about the FSC; 'Who is protecting out forests?' here.