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  • Low volume of certified wood imported to EU

    2016 - 03.28

    Concerns are being raised about the certification and legality of timber being imported into the European Union from countries such as Brazil.

    Only around a quarter of the wood products imported in 2014 were certified legal, up from 19 per cent in 2007. The statistics refer to the 17 countries in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU, which aims to reduce illegal logging and ensure that wood being imported into the EU comes from legal and sustainable sources.

    Companies such as Greenwood Management work to ensure sustainable and legal uses of timber, and to stamp out illegal harvesting in countries such as Brazil.

    The new figures show that there was a low level of verification of forest products from Latin American countries. Only a very small area of the Amazon rainforest is certified to produce legal timber, however much of the wood imported by the EU from Brazil is eucalyptus and softwood which is harvested from mainly certified areas outside of the tropical zone.

    The figures are more worrying for Southeast Asia and Africa. If all the wood imported to the EU from Africa was licensed, the figure would increase from 11 per cent to 60 per cent and from 25 per cent to 95 per cent in Southeast Asia.

    Over all, if all the countries that are part of the scheme had only shipped verified timber to the EU, the amount of certified wood being imported would be eight per cent higher at 33 per cent.

    Meanwhile, Brazilian exports of wood to other South American countries is increasing. Data from the Mexican Association of Timber Importers showed the country bought 55 per cent more timber products from Brazil in 2015 than it did in 2010. The monetary value increased from US$18 million in 2010 to US$139 million in 2015.

    Old smartphones used in fight against illegal logging

    2016 - 03.23

    Old mobile phones are being used in the fight against illegal loggers in the Amazon rainforest.

    The Rainforest Connection is collecting used smartphones, which are then fitted with solar panels and hidden in the trees in areas of the rainforest that are protected from logging. If the devices in the phones pick up the sound of a chainsaw in the locality, they alert the authorities over the ordinary mobile phone network.

    The company is partnering with agencies working to protect the Amazon and has installed around 30 of the specially-adapted smartphones in the last few years.

    Chief executive, Topher White told Tech Insider that the idea is to stop the illegal loggers in their tracks, rather than catch them after the damage has been done.

    He said: "Instead of it becoming this large forensic operation, where somebody has to go to jail, you can diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand. That's really the first time it's been possible for our partners in the field.

    "Instead of learning about what was cut last week or what was cut this morning, it's about a tree being cut right now.”

    Rainforest Connection is mainly operating in Brazil but is aiming to expand its coverage to Ecuador later this year, and then on to Borneo and Indonesia. The company believes that if its methods are adopted in endangered forests globally, it could reduce the incidence of illegal logging by up to 90 per cent.

    The company is also planning to introduce an app so that members of the public can listen to the sounds of the rainforest canopy as captured by the solar-powered smartphones in the trees.

    As a sustainable forestry company, Greenwood Management applauds efforts to reduce the impact of illegal logging and protect the environment in the Amazon rainforest.

    Improved timber tracking application launched

    2016 - 03.21

    An improved version of a system created for timber buyers to check that the wood they are buying from Brazil has been legally harvested has been launched.

    The Timber Legality Verification System is an online application put together by the BVRio Environmental Stock Exchange in partnership with other stakeholders including the Brazilian government, the forestry industry and NGOs. It was originally introduced in late 2011, to put the focus on areas of the timber trade that needed to prove the wood they were selling was verified and legal.

    The application is targeted at timber buyers in Europe, who have to meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, and US companies bound by the terms of the Lacey Act.

    Now the upgraded system has been extended to include ‘responsible communities’, such as agricultural and forest goods that have been sustainably produced.

    Businesses can access the basic application online and use it for free. It provides information from the barcode of the accompanying forest origin data provided by the IBAMA which shows the legal status of the product. This includes where the timber was harvested and whether the logger has been fined or examined for any irregularities.

    Maps are displayed online to show exactly where the timber was logged and the route it followed to reach the sales point. Users can trace the whole production chain to ensure that the product has been sustainably and legally produced from forest to buyer.

    This is the type of product that can make a key difference in the protecting the rainforest from illegal logging and can provide timber importers with the guarantees they need to comply with the relevant laws. It’s the kind of application that sustainable timber companies such as Greenwood Management support to ensure the promotion of proper uses of tropical forest products.

    Indonesia 'fights back' against forest fires

    2016 - 03.16

    Indonesia's government has promised that it will be better at dealing with forest fires and have better management processes in place this year, according to a government official.

    Agus Justianto was speaking on the first day of the General Assembly of the Tropical Forest Alliance in Jakarta. He acknowledged that last year was difficult and that the country would learn from arguably the country's worst environmental disaster, which cost Indonesia billions of dollars.

    In his speech, Mr Justianto said that the Indonesian government will be tackling the fires by introducing a stronger monitoring plan, creating a one-map policy to govern land and setting up a regional task force aimed at preventing forest fire issues.

    “The source of funding for these task forces are from the state and provincial budgets, those are the primary sources, but it doesn’t close the chances to receive funding from other parties, including from the private sectors and other countries,” Mr Justianto said.

    The speech comes on the back of the worst environmental crisis for Indonesia A fire in the Riau province covered an area of 100 hectares and took place less than three kilometres from the airport, Pinang Kampai, forcing the governor to declare a state of emergency. The World Bank reported that the costs of the fires in Indonesia cost the country in the region of $16 billion (£11.3 billion).

    Leading organisations in the timber industry have welcomed the move and anticipate a change of fortune for the upcoming year. Anderson Tanoto, director at Royal Golden Eagle, producer of fibre, pulp and paper, said that the response to the state of emergency “was positive” and is hopeful the government receives all the “investment and manpower it needs to help prevent and fight fires.”

    Largest wealth fund drops companies over deforestation concerns

    2016 - 03.14

    The largest wealth fund has dropped 11 companies over their connections to deforestation.

    Norway's Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) manages $828 billion (£573 billion) has revealed that they have dropped six palm oil companies, four pulp and paper businesses and a coal company from its investment portfolio. Four of these enterprises were dropped after investigations by the funds found that their palm oil plantations have caused severe environmental damage.

    The move is seen as a positive step by the fund aimed at cutting off companies that contribute directly to deforestation and shows international investments are moving away from companies that practise unsustainable methods.

    The announcement over the 11 companies comes after the company that runs the wealth funds, Norges Bank Investment Management, recently released a new policy stating that new businesses had to comply with human rights issues in their business model. Between 2012 and 2015, GPFG dropped 50 companies over issues over their human rights and sustainability records, while eight were dropped over their direct involvement in causing severe environmental damage.

    Lars Lĝvold, director of the NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway, on the report, said: “ One of the world’s largest investors sends a clear signal to the palm oil industry that the industry must stop rainforest destruction.

    “There is an urgent need for increased attention from investors on the sustainability of the companies they invest in.

    “GPFG is an international pioneer in this work, and divestment decisions of the fund are routinely followed by responsible investors from around the world.”

    Organisations around the world such as Greenwood Management have been working for many years to highlight the dangers of deforestation and promotes sustainable forest management. It welcomes the efforts of the leading wealth fund in the world in raising awareness regarding deforestation and urges businesses adapt their business model to help enforce sustainability.

    Report calls for better forest management

    2016 - 03.09

    A new report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stated that better forest management techniques need to take place for forests to be sustainable.

    The research, titled Future Forests of the Northern United States, indicates that the forests will change dramatically over the next 50 years without better collaboration.

    While the report acknowledges that trends in the past have been positive, current trends and data have revealed that increasing urban expansion, exploitive logging as well as a lack of a clear forest management structure will have a significant impact on the future of forests. Other issues include the loss of tree diversity, invasion of foreign species restricting growth and development of forests, the division of ownership of forests (the parcelling of land where forests are) as well as the increase in carbon gas emissions.

    Tony Ferguson, Acting Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory, commented on the research paper: “This research is vital to everyone concerned about sustaining diverse, healthy, productive forests and the associated ecosystem services, commodities, and jobs our forests provide.

    "It provides a scientific foundation for exploring and discussing the future of forests, and it underscores the role of management in making forests healthier and more resilient.”

    The report argues for better collaboration between policymakers, forest owners and managers to prevent these “alarming trends.”

    Stephen Shifley, one of the 30 authors who collaborated on the report, commenting on the findings:”The challenges facing northern forests are large, complicated, intertwined, and enduring.

    “By applying the best available science to look ahead at how forests are likely to change over the next 50 years, we think forest owners, managers, planners, and policymakers will be better prepared to avoid many future problems by implementing proactive management practices that are ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable."

    Mars promises zero-deforestation supply chains

    2016 - 03.07

    Supply chains for big businesses should be coming from sources that are sustainable, according to the Global Director of Sustainability for Mars.

    Kevin Rabinovitch was speaking at the Paris climate talks and will be in attendance at the Tropical Forest Alliance in Jakarta.

    The TFA, comprised of governments, businesses and organisations, share an interest in moving towards a zero-deforestation supply chain model by 2020. The meeting in Jakarta is aimed at exchanging knowledge among these groups as well as setting in motion, plans in the form of pledges sustainable forestation.

    Mars, for example, has promised to restructure its supply chain, as well as joining many initiatives such as the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and allows supply-change.org track its actions and pledges it has made to cut back on deforestation.

    Mars has also said that 100 per cent of its palm oil, soy, beef and paper will soon come exclusively from sources that are sustainably sourced. Mars has also in recent years been seen as a driving member of the RSPO in pressuring the organisation to create higher standards.

    While such initiatives have provided collaborative efforts in combating deforestation, at least 70 per cent of tropical deforestation comes from commercial agriculture, according to a recent report by Forest Trends, titled 'Consumer Goods and Deforestation'.

    Nonetheless, according to nonprofit climate research organisation CDP, a report called 'Realising Zero Deforestation' has found that 70 per cent of the 180 companies that are part of the TFA have pledges in place to remove deforestation from their supply chains.

    Mr Rabinovitch wants more to be done regarding deforestation, arguing that there isn't a clear and standard definition for the success of deforestation, which leads to lengthy discussions between companies.

    “Every minute we spend arguing and working out what success looks like and how we can measure it is a minute and a dollar is not spent fixing the problem," he says.

    However, by organisations entering into a collaborative agreement, Bertrand Swiderski, Director of Sustainability at Carrefour, has suggested that this helps work towards a common goal, reducing deforestation.

    "If you want to avoid deforestation, acting collectively and sharing a similar trajectory is the most important thing. It isn't a matter of competition. We still have a lot of stairs to climb but we've reached the first step” he said.

    Organisations around the world such as Greenwood Management have been working for many years to highlight the dangers of deforestation and promotes sustainable forest management. It welcomes the collaborative efforts of companies and governments in raising awareness regarding deforestation and looks forward to seeing these partnerships work closer together.

    Conservation aid alone 'has negative impact on deforestation battle'

    2016 - 03.02

    A study looking into the effectiveness of conservation aid in counteracting deforestation has found that aid alone does not help combat forest loss.

    The study, 'Assessing the impact of international conservation aid on deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa' led by Daniel Miller, University of Illinois graduate, examines data from 2000 to 2013 on the rates of deforestation levels across 42 different countries.

    To date $3.4 billion in international conservation funding has been provided to protect forests in Africa since the 1990s. The study assesses how effective this funding has been and what impact it has had in the fight against deforestation.

    The findings from the study found evidence that when countries received conservation funding, in the short term, this had an adverse impact on forest levels and led to an increase in deforestation activities.

    Miller and two researchers looked at a number of factors in these 42 countries to work out if any combination and dynamics were more efficient across these countries. They discovered that governance, rule of law and policy effectiveness affected the results.

    “We find evidence that some conservation aid leads to a short-term increase in deforestation,” Miller says. “Our hypothesis is that its displacement. The conservation aid may have gone toward a national park in, say, Benin, leading to less deforestation inside the park. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that the funding may have just displaced forest clearing activities outside park boundaries.”
    Miller says that the combination of good governance and conservation aid was enough to mitigate deforestation but that on their own was not sufficient in the efforts to combat it, in part due to too little financial aid countries receive.

    “Unfortunately, the amount of aid is so little and the pressures to cut down the forest for furniture markets, firewood and building materials for homes, or other uses are so great that the conservation and money and protected areas are not enough to counteract the overall loss of forest in many countries,” Miller said.

    More needs to be done to combat deforestation, says FAO report

    2016 - 02.29

    Advances in technology and an increase in understanding about sustainable forest management is the key to halting deforestation, according to a new report.

    The report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is emphasising the importance in extensive forestation monitoring and restoration.

    The findings, to be released during Asia-Pacific Forestry Week highlights concerns in the “unevenness” of forest covering has increased in Asian countries and also raises significant concerns about the future of mangroves, which helps in the protection of the populace from climate change, if they are not monitored more efficiently.

    Patrick Durst, Senior Forestry Officer at FAO, wants better monitoring to take place in some Asian countries, stating that while “the Asia-Pacific is the only developing region of the world to be seeing an increase in forest cover, the performance record is uneven. A few countries such as China, the Philippines and Vietnam posted significant increases in forest area but many countries continue to lose forest area at an alarming rate.”

    The report uses data taken from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report and has found that mangroves, particularly fringe mangroves (which are found on small Pacific islands), will be susceptible to the predicted sea level rises that are anticipated over the next century, and will not survive beyond 2050.

    The interior mangroves have a longer survivability rate and will last until 2070, the report claims, which calls for a collaboration and joint efforts in ensuring the mangroves are protected and maintained efficiently.

    Daniel Murdiyarso, Senior Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and co-author of a review of mangroves, said: “Despite the Asia-Pacific region being home to almost half of the global mangroves, we have to ‘turn the tide’ — technically, institutionally and legally speaking. A lot needs to be done. Coordination between government agencies and collaboration with fishing communities needs to be strengthened and more target oriented.”

    Organisations around the world such as Greenwood Management have been working for many years to highlight the lack of effective monitoring and promotes sustainable forest management. It welcomes the FAO's report and look forward to closer collaboration between nations to improve quality forest management.

    Community-based forestry showing great promise, report finds

    2016 - 02.24

    Community-based forestry is proving to be an excellent vehicle for promoting forestry management, and in turn, generating much-needed income for rural communities.

    According to the report published by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 'Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of extent and effectiveness', a third of the world's forest area is currently estimated to be under community-based management.

    The report also highlights several case studies taken from community-based management programmes across the globe, including those in countries such as Nepal, Mexico, Cameroon and Gambia.

    In Nepal, for example, forests had improved substantially following the beginning of community forestry. As a direct result of this project, the total number of trees planted increased by more than 50 per cent over a 15 year period.

    In Mexico, which has a long history of community forestry, up to 80 per cent of forests are owned by communities. These, in turn, benefit from strong commercial rights, which enables them to harvest and market timber products.

    In Cameroon, the creation of 147 new community forest management projects gives them the exclusive rights to manage and maintain a total area of 637,000 hectares of forestry.

    In Gambia, 10 per cent, or approximately 45,000 hectares, of forests are owned through community-based projects, which have several rights and income benefits.

    While the report highlights these success stories, it also warns that more needs to be done through further reforms and initiatives to increase their potential.

    Commenting on the report, Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division, said: “What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen. Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future.”