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  • Archive for September, 2015

    Peru to crack down on palm oil plantations

    2015 - 09.30

    Peru has announced plans for a major crackdown on deforestation in its Amazon regions by targeting palm oil plantations.

    At present monitoring and managing palm oil plantations is the job of local authorities. However, according to Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, this is going to change, with a new decree to be introduced next month moving palm oil plantations under the jurisdiction of federal authorities.

    Speaking on Sunday (27 September), Mr Pulgar-Vidal highlighted palm oil plantations as a major threat to the nation's rainforest. He revealed that the new decree is "ready to go" and that he expects it to come into effect within the next two weeks.

    Demand for palm oil, a cash crop widely used in food and cosmetics, has fuelled deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the crop is prevalent.

    Indeed, palm oil is also a major contributor to deforestation and climate change – not only are large areas of forests cleared for palm oil plantations to be grown, but these trees also emit a far higher level of carbon, thus adding to greenhouse gas levels.

    Palm oil plantations are relatively new to Peru and other South American countries, so the forestry management procedures are not in place to ensure it does not lead to similar levels of deforestation.

    "Part of the problem is that land use procedures are too easy in some cases, and managed by regional governments that are not strong enough to deal with the problem," Mr Pulgar-Vidal explained while attending the United Nations General Assembly.

    He continued: "Since 2008 the national government has delegated land use decisions to regional authorities, including the right to offer palm oil concessions.

    "The idea of the new regulation is to have clearer land use rules, so that palm oil plantation are limited to already-deforested areas of the country."

    Keep deforestation at heart of climate change debate, NGO panel says

    2015 - 09.28

    Bringing about an end to deforestation should be at the heart of conversations about climate change, an NGO panel has said.

    Last year saw the creation of the New York Declaration of Forests, which was finalised at the UN Climate Change summit. At its core was the basic principle that halting deforestation was a critical aspect of the fight against climate change and that government and private sector policies needed to reflect this.

    The declaration signifies the willingness of 180 governments, companies, indigenous community networks and civil society organisations to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to bring it to a complete end by 2030.

    One year on from its creation and a panel discussion has been held to review the accomplishments of the declaration. On Tuesday (23 September), the group of NGO representatives examined the extent to which those who had agreed to the declaration had actually helped in ending deforestation and promoting sustainable forestry management, while also considering what the next stages of the process would be.

    According to The Epoch Times, the panel was positive about the amount of attention deforestation had been getting within the climate change conversation. Eduardo Goncalves, international communications director for The Climate Group said: "Climate really seems to be at the heart of the discussion and it’s absolutely right that forestry is a key element of that debate as well."

    Dominic Waughray, member of the executive committee of the World Economic Forum, also praised the efforts of all participants, but he noted that this is "a governmental issue" because they are the "stewards in the resource space".

    He went on to say that governments have to change the way they think about forests. Mr Waughray explained: "The forest is a endowment which isn’t just an economic resource that can be turned into a product and sold somewhere else to make the economy work."

    Greenwood Management fully endorses the proposals of the declaration – protecting the planet's trees of critical when it comes to bringing an end to climate change.

    Only eight countries meet UN sustainability goals

    2015 - 09.23

    Only eight countries in the world are meeting the United Nation's goals for sustainable development, according to a new study.

    The UN has set two key basic conditions for global sustainable development: providing satisfactory well-being for their residents and living within the planet's resource budget. Research by Global Footprint Network (GFN) – an international sustainability think tank – has suggested that just eight countries are currently ticking both these boxes: Algeria, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, Jamaica, Jordan and Sri Lanka.

    The findings of the study are concerning as they suggest the vast majority of nations are either using up the Earth's resources at an unsustainable rate, or the quality of life they provide for their populations is below par.

    In 1991, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN Development Programme and WWF collaborated on the 'Caring for the Earth' report, which contained at its core the same two basic criteria for sustainable development.

    Mathis Wackernagel, president of GFN, said: "Fulfilling this universal dream requires progress without any additional costs for future generations. This means it will be crucial to manage natural resources carefully so that we live within the means of nature."

    To decide if a country is living 'within the means of nature' the UN relies on the Ecological Footprint, which factors in the competing demands on productive surfaces, including food, fibre, timber, carbon dioxide sequestration and space for infrastructure.

    Almost all countries use more than the planet can supply; in fact it is estimated that humanity's annual demand on nature currently exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in a year by around 60 per cent.

    Wackernagel stated: "Putting natural resource security squarely into the development equation will be essential to ensuring that sustainable development is achieved. We hope the UN Sustainable Development Goals will spur all of us to move forward along this path."

    UK's big four supermarkets make zero deforestation pledges

    2015 - 09.21

    Britain's big four supermarkets have joined the global push for major companies to commit to zero deforestation policies.

    The UK's major main supermarkets – Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco and Morrisons – account for 70 per cent of the country's total grocery sales. Together the quartet have said that by 2020 they will each ensure that all timber and wood-based products they use will be sustainably-sourced.

    M&S and Waitrose, two of the UK's other prominent grocery sellers, have both also thrown their weight into the deal. All of the supermarkets have joined WWF's Save Forests campaign, which is gathering momentum.

    The British arm of conservation charity WWF runs the Save Forests campaign, which is calling for the closure of loopholes in current legislation that allow illegally sourced or unsustainable wood to be legally imported and sold in the UK.

    Julia Young, WWF-UK’s manager of the global forest and trade network in the UK, commented: "Committing to WWF's forests campaign and ensuring their businesses are not contributing to illegally sourced or unsustainable timber is a powerful and important step that will have a huge impact on some of the world's remaining natural forests.

    “If the remaining few grocery chains made the pledge they could have an incredible impact in the UK and beyond, helping save the habitats of some of the most endangered species."

    While not agreeing to make the exact same commitments, many major companies around the world are taking the initiative and making their own pledges to halt deforestation and protect the world's forests. With such power over global supply chains, by stating that they will not source products or materials that have contributed to deforestation these companies are placing large amounts of pressure on suppliers to stop illegal logging and pursue sustainable practices.

    It is an approach that Greenwood Management advocates, with governments and charities needing the support of the private sector if they are to emerge victorious in the fight against deforestation.

    Norway fulfils Brazilian deforestation pact

    2015 - 09.16

    Norway has fulfilled its pledge of providing financial incentives for Brazil to curb deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by paying $1 billion after set targets were hit.

    In 2008 an agreement was made between the two countries in which Norway stated that it would give the South American nation $1 billion over seven years if Brazil slowed its forest loss. It has held true to its word, with Norwegian environment minister Tine Sundtoft announcing this week that the government would make the final $100 million payment before the global UN climate summit in December.

    Between 2008 and 2015 Brazil has cut the rate of deforestation by 75 per cent. And while it is recognised that more must be done, Brazil has been widely praised for its work thus far and has been hailed as an example for other nations to follow.

    Mr Sundtoft said in a statement: "Brazil’s achievements in reducing deforestation in the Amazon are truly impressive. The benefits for the global climate, for biodiversity and vital ecosystem services, as well as for the people living in and off the Amazon, are immeasurable.

    "Through the Amazon Fund, Brazil has established what has become a model for other national climate change funds. We are proud to be partnering with Brazil in this effort."

    United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon added praise of her own, stating that the partnership between the two countries is "one of most impressive climate change mitigation actions of the past decades".

    "This is an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet," he said.

    Along with Norway providing financial incentives for halting deforestation through the Amazon Fund, the main tactics that have been credited with aiding the decline are better monitoring and law enforcement, coupled with private sector initiatives under pressure from civil society groups.

    Investment in small-scale forestry can produce bigger returns, WFC finds

    2015 - 09.14

    Investment in small-scale forestry and agriculture plantations could deliver huge economic and environmental benefits, a new report has suggested.

    According to research by the World Forestry Congress (WFC), offering financial support to small-scale producers of forest products can stimulate growth and thus see healthy returns for the investors, while also contributing towards better results for the environment.

    Based on dozens of case studies from around the world, the WFC's report demonstrates that the world’s 1.3 billion small-scale agriculturalists and foresters, including indigenous groups and local communities, are economically and ecologically influential. By investing in them people can not only tackle poverty and tree loss but also trigger commercial growth.

    It illustrates that attractive investments not only provide financial returns but can also tackle serious social and environmental problems. This is why Greenwood Management advocates forestry investment as such a worthwhile practice.

    Jeffrey Campbell, a contributor to the WFC reports and manager of the Forest Farm Facility (FFF) at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), commented: "As we’re looking for investments for the future, it’s an opportunity to say, ‘Let’s direct the investments finally to those who have the biggest stake in making sure that we achieve our objectives'."

    He added that with the UN Conference on Climate Change fast approaching – it will take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015 – now is the perfect time to highlight the importance of this often-overlooked segment of society.

    As Mongabay reports: "Private investment is increasingly seen as a development solution for countries beset with poverty. As a result, focus has been on investment in large-scale, plantation agriculture, sidelining the massive small-scale private sector."

    The WFC has attempted to show through global case studies that small-scale forestry and farms can be just as lucrative as their larger counterparts. "If we look at the degree to which smaller scale enterprises distribute income, profits, benefits, and livelihood, we can probably argue they’re much more efficient," Mr Campbell said.

    Misguided agricultural subsidies contributing to deforestation, UN says

    2015 - 09.09

    Governments around the world could be unwittingly contributing to deforestation through ill-informed policies, a report by the United Nations (UN) has found.

    According to a UN brief, misguided agricultural subsidies, which come as a result of the ever-increasing demand for food, are upsetting the balance between agricultural production and forest conservation.

    Estimates have suggested that food production must increase by up to 70 per cent globally by 2050 in order to feed the planet's rising population. This need is leading international governments to introduce subsidies to spark greater food production, but doing so could in turn be leading to more forest land being cut down.

    UN Environment Program (UNEP) executive director Achim Steiner explained: "The negative impact of subsidies on forest cover is often caused by outdated and incoherent policies."

    This trend must be reversed, UNEP says, citing the example of Niger. The African country's government recently scrapped a policy encouraging farmers to remove trees from their estates – the change led to the regeneration of 4.8 million hectares of land and an increase of farmer household incomes of between 18 and 24 per cent.

    The findings come as a separate report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that while deforestation has continued over the past 25 years, the rate of trees being lost has more than halved in that period.

    FAO states that around 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990. However, the research published in the report, entitled 'the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015', shows that the annual net loss of forests has come down from 0.18 per cent in the 1990s, to 0.08 per cent over the past five years.

    Josť Graziano da Silva, director-general of FAO, commented: "The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better. We will not succeed in reducing the impact of climate change and promoting sustainable development if we do not preserve our forests and sustainably use the many resources they offer us."

    Timber demand rises as exports to China increase

    2015 - 09.07

    Timber demand and prices are on the rise, with an increase in the amount of timber being sent to Asia celebrated as a strong sign for the industry.

    US timber exports to Asia were down 10 per cent on the year through June. However, more than half of exporters reported improving sales to China in August, according to research by USFDA and Hardwood Publishing.

    Meanwhile, in Japan, while timber imports had dropped due to below expected activity in construction and housebuilding, one buyer said increased attention to timber legality had boosted demand for global imports.

    It paints a positive picture for timber demand and timber investment, something that is supported by a recent article by The Day, which claims that global timber demand is on the rise. The article states: "Timber prices are rising as demand grows for timber used in building, paper products and biofuels worldwide."

    The worldwide timber industry, as with many globally exported materials, is heavily reliant on China as one of its main buyers, as leading investment firms such as Greenwood Management are well aware. And so, with the Asian giant suffering a stock market crash this summer, the knock-on effects have been felt in the vast majority of investment markets.

    Despite this, the timber market has demonstrated its robustness, with many exporters saying that despite the economic crisis in China, their level of trade with the country has not been affected.

    Eric Julien, CEO of EurochÍne, commented: "What is certain is that China's economy is at the top. After years of phenomenal growth it is unclear if economy will grow at the same level. Despite this, I see no major disruption which could affect this autumn sales. While we suffer from a chronic shortage of wood, aggregate demand remains good."

    It is reassuring news for investors, with supply and demand levels clearly still working in their favour.

    Palm oil comes under threat

    2015 - 09.02

    Palm oil producers in Indonesia have been hit hard by a drop in prices for the substance as well as the introduction of a new export levy.

    Particularly prevalent in South-East Asia, palm oil production goes towards everything from cosmetics to food products. However, palm oil is also a major contributor to deforestation and climate change – not only are large areas of forests cleared for palm oil plantations to be grown, but these trees also emit a far higher level of carbon, thus adding to greenhouse gas levels.

    In a positive piece of news for the environment, although not for those working in the palm oil industry, production has been hit by the declining price of crude palm oil (CPO) price along with the imposition of the $50 per tonne export levy on CPO by the Indonesian government, effective from 16 July 2015.

    The export of CPO, as a percentage of all palm oil related products, has reportedly dropped to 20 per cent. With major world companies also being encouraged to adopt zero deforestation policies – which include removing palm oil from within their supply chain – the palm oil industry could face further damage in the coming months and years.

    While not good news for anyone invested in palm oil, it represents good news for forestry investment as a whole, with more sustainable uses of woodland likely to win out over this potentially destructive practice.

    The Wall Street Journal stated that weakening demand from major buyers like China and Europe was adding to the problems for Indonesia's palm oil producers. It added that it expects this trend to continue, which will help preserve many of the world's forests and protect investments in forestry.