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    New data shows increase in Amazon deforestation

    2015 - 11.30

    New figures show that an area of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil equal to more than seven times the size of New York city was removed in the 12 months to the start of August.

    The data, from Brazil’s environment agency, shows a 16 per cent increase in deforestation compared to the previous year. A total of 5,831 square kilometres of the rainforest was removed during the 12-month period.

    It is the second time in the last three years that Brazil has reported an increase in the rate of forest clearances. The recent annual statistics come after 10 years of impressive figures which appeared to show a major slowdown in deforestation of the Amazon, 65 per cent of which is in Brazil.

    Brazil’s environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, told The Guardian: “It was a surprise, particularly the increase in [the state of] Mato Grosso.

    “Pressure for more logging is again strong and coming from agriculture and livestock activities.”

    There was also an increase in clearances in the states of Amazonas and Rondônia, where the authorities have been concentrating their efforts to reduce illegal logging. However, there are concerns that legal loopholes and alleged corruption is allowing the clearances to continue, despite regulations and enforcement activity.

    The new data, which was published after analysis of satellite images, was released ahead of the international climate change summit taking place in Paris this week. Around 150 world leaders are gathering in the French capital, where they will aim to hammer out a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An estimated 15 per cent of global emissions are due to deforestation.

    Companies such as Greenwood Management are among these encouraging sustainable forestry practices in the Amazon to protect the forests and reduce illegal logging.

    Conservation organisations including the World Wildlife Fund are now urging the Brazilian government to increase the incentives available to persuade more companies to work the Amazon sustainably and take part in reforestation schemes.

    New app to track illegally logged Brazilian timber

    2015 - 11.25

    New technology is being introduced in Brazil to help international timber buyers check that they are purchasing products that have not been harvested illegally.

    A new app has been created for BVRio, Brazil’s environmental assets exchange which manages the market where forest and carbon credits are exchanged.

    All timber that is exported from Brazil has to carry a code to show that the wood has been logged legally. The new app allows buyers to scan the code and check the records of each lot to ensure they are not buying illegal timber. The details are cross-referenced with information from the Brazilian authorities and satellite pictures.

    The technology can be used on desktop computers, IOS and Android, and is free to download from Google Play and the Apple Store.

    BVRio, which is planning to start a new timber platform at the exchange next year, said: "These apps will be particularly useful to buyers operating in Europe and the United States, where they have to ensure compliance with the EU Timber Regulation and the US Lacey Act.

    "Given the high risk of timber illegality in Brazil, the use of these apps assists buyers in estimating their risks and avoiding exposure to illegal timber trade."

    According to UK independent policy institute Chatham House, more than half of all timber taken from Brazil may have been logged illegally. It is a major problem for the country, and especially for the survival of the Amazon rainforest. However, companies such as Greenwood Management are aiming to overcome the problem through sustainably managed forest resources in Brazil.

    The problem of deforestation and illegally logged timber will be coming under the international spotlight next week, when it will be one of the central themes of the UN climate change talks in Paris. The decimation of the rainforests are one of the major causes linked to climate change.

    UN chief optimistic ahead of climate change summit

    2015 - 11.23

    The UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change has called for countries taking part in the forthcoming climate change conference – known as COP21 – to move “further and faster” to reduce emissions.

    Janos Pasztor spoke out ahead of the two-week meeting, which starts in Paris on November 30 and will bring together more than 120 countries. Between them, the represented nations are responsible for around 90 per cent of global emissions.

    These countries have already submitted their plans to help ensure global temperatures do not rise by more than three degrees Celsius by the end of the century. They include Brazil, which earlier this year pledged to restore around 30 million acres of the Amazon rainforest as part of a joint agreement issued with the US to tackle climate change.

    Forestry management has a key role in addressing climate change and responsible companies such as Greenwood Management are already supporting reforestation and conservation measures.

    The UN’s Mr Pasztor wants nations attending COP21 to make further commitments to bring down the projected global temperature increase.

    He said: “The challenge now is to move much further and faster to reduce global emissions so we can keep global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius. At the same time, there must be support to countries to adapt to the inevitable consequences that are already upon us.”

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has addressed G20 leaders ahead of the Paris conference and is working with countries sending representatives to the event in an effort to secure a positive outcome. He met leaders at the ASEAN-UN conference in Kuala Lumpur at the weekend and will speak to Commonwealth heads of government at their meeting in Malta this week, before he attends the COP21 summit.

    Mr Pasztor said Ban Ki-moon’s meetings were aiming to address “several sticking points” in negotiations before the nations come together at the Paris event.

    Poor countries 'do more' to save forests

    2015 - 11.18

    Brazil and Indonesia have made less ambitious climate change and forest conservation commitments than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other poorer countries, according to a recent analysis.

    The report examined how forests and the land-use sector are represented by their nations in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC). More than 150 countries submitted their INDC ahead of the key UN climate change negotiations taking place in Paris, with the aim of creating a foundation for a new global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

    Completed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the analysis revealed the trend observed in the INDC submitted by each country was consistent amongst more than ten forest-centric countries set to attend the Paris talks.

    Each pledge was analysed in terms of its transparency, ambition and accounting standards, as well as by the proposed actions that would be taken in the land-use sector. This included topics such as emissions produced from agriculture, deforestation and forest degradation.

    According to Doug Boucher, director of UCS's Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative, DRC is one of the poorest countries contributing to climate change, and has a number difficulties making conservation plans, but provided one of the most satisfactory INDCs.

    Although one of the least developed countries in the world, DRC pledged a 17 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. In its submission, it also specified how much of a reduction would come from each sector, as well as the support required from other countries to achieve the goals.

    In contrast, India's submission lists a goal of reducing global warming emissions to 35 per cent by 2030, but does not specify how much can be achieved without the help of international aid.

    Commenting on India's contribution, the report said: "Reduction of deforestation and degradation of natural forests is hardly mentioned, even though they still remain a problem despite the country's having made the transition to net reforestation overall,"

    Paris climate change pact 'could leave forests vulnerable'

    2015 - 11.16

    UN officials have not yet revealed whether any agreement struck during an upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change session, which takes place in Paris at the end of November, will mention forestry.

    However, Chris Meyer, who works on issues concerning the Amazon rainforest for the Environment Defense Fund, has stated that forestry and farming will "implicitly" play roles in the climate pact "no matter what".

    An analysis conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists during 2015 had revealed that forests are being left vulnerable under most national pledges, despite deforestation being blamed for over 10 per cent of climate-changing pollution released each year.

    Douglas Boucher, a senior analyst for the union, argues that many pledges, including those from the European Union and the United States, fall short on mentions of deforestation by "substantial amounts".

    According to Boucher, forests and other landscapes across the US soak up more than one sixth of the greenhouse gas pollution that the country releases each year. However, he highlighted the lack of mention of forestry practices in America's pre-Paris climate change pledge.

    The pledge from Brazil does include mention of plans to eradicate illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest by 2030, and also includes goals for forest restoration. However, Boucher highlights that it does not include plans to address legal logging practices.

    Nils Hermann Ranum, head of policy for the Rainforest Foundation Norway, commented: “Brazil has been praised for its successful efforts to reduce deforestation. With an ambition of only targeting illegal logging, and only in the Amazon, Brazil’s days as a forest hero seems to be over.”

    Gustavo Silva-Chávez, a project manager at US non-profit Forest Trends, has argued that countries taking part in the pledge need to be clear on forestry practices to encourage private sector investment in reforestation. He suggests that countries committed to reducing emissions will force any businesses operating within that region to accept regulation and begin working towards fighting climate change.

    There are some businesses, however, that don't need encouragement. Companies including Greenwood Management have already pledged to support reforestation and forestry conservation, helping to reduce the impact of emissions and climate change.

    Large landowners key to reducing deforestation

    2015 - 11.11

    A new study has revealed that the cooperation of large landowners, who collectively control the majority of Brazil's remaining forests, could be the key to reducing the country's levels of deforestation.

    Peter Richards and Leah VanWey, researchers from Brown University studying property in Brazil's third-largest state Mato Grosso, have published a study revealing the area's current distribution of deforestation and the amount of forest than remains around the area.

    According to the researchers, this information could be used by government policymakers to provide a greater understanding of where anti-deforestation laws should be focused by highlighting remaining forest cover, carbon stocks and the levels of deforestation.

    More specifically, the results of the study revealed that nearly two thirds of remaining forests and carbon reserved were located on private properties, many of which were owned by some of Brazil's largest landowners.

    In fact, of the deforestation that took place between 2001 and 2012, when more than 83,000km of forest was cleared in Mato Grasso, 38 per cent took place on large properties.

    However, current government efforts to reduce deforestation have targeted areas controlled by small landholders, who policymakers believe clear a higher percentage of land each year.

    Despite this, VanWey argues that the government should not make the decision to halt efforts to target large landowners and target smaller farmers based purely on misleading percentages.

    She continued: "When you look at a whole landscape like Mato Grosso, the large farmers own so much of the land that even lower rates of deforestation translate into big areas and many tons of carbon."

    Richards and VanWey are calling on the government to continue their focus on larger properties in order to significantly reduce carbon emissions and forest loss.

    "In the future, Brazil will need to continue to work with its large landowners in the Amazon to preserve the state's remaining forest cover," said Richards.

    Brazil 'progressing in fight against deforestation'

    2015 - 11.09

    Brazil has reached a milestone in terms of the progress it has made in fighting deforestation in the Amazon, according to the country's Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira.

    According to government figures, Brazil has seen the lowest levels of deforestation in the past five years since measurements were first taken in 1988. These results, Ms Teixeira suggest, are the result of 10 years of effectively-coordinated direct action against deforestation.

    Data also suggests the reduction in deforestation levels in the Amazon accounts for Brazil's reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which have fallen by around 41 per cent since 2005.

    Ms Teixeira has suggested that Brazil's achievements have been enabled by changes in attitudes to deforestation, which has seen previously common clear-cutting of areas over 1,000 hectares replaced by scheduled and monitored deforestation on a small and more gradual scale.

    In order to make these changes, Brazilian authorities have begun utilising modern technology as a means of detecting deforestation more accurately. This technology includes tools that provide more accurate satellite images, radar images that identify changes in bad weather, and even a number of new systems that have been developed to identify land use and detect areas that have been burned.

    The Brazilian government is also working alongside timber companies such as Greenwood Management to continue reforestation and conservation efforts as part of a country-wide plan to consolidate existing indigenous lands and conservation units.

    Combined conservation efforts aided by private-sector companies have already proved successful. For example, in 2006 the soy industry signed the Soy Moratorium, which committed each company not to acquire any soy produced in deforested areas after July 2006.

    The government hopes to capitalise on these successes, using initiatives such as the Amazon Region Protected Areas program to invest $125 million in the management of more than 58 million hectares of land and 105 conservation units that require the support of the government and international projects to remain untouched.

    Demand for expensive furniture is leading to deforestation

    2015 - 11.04

    Demand for expensive furniture is leading to an increase in illegal logging in Indonesia, researchers have suggested.

    Indonesia has the highest rate of deforestation in the world, a study by the University of Maryland in 2014 found. Much of the problem had been attributed to palm oil plantations, but demand for furniture that makes use of a rare wood found in the country's forests is also cited as an issue.

    A law called the Timber Legality Assurance System (SVLK), which was set up in 2009, has a major loophole within it, Nature World News has reported. It states: "Those trees that are cut down during forest clearing for palm oil plantations or mining can be sold without being certified under the SVLK."

    Jago Wadley, senior forest campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), has released a statement, calling on authorities to address the loophole and ensure that trees are not felled under the guise of being a palm oil planter, for example.

    Mr Wadley said: "There are always actors in Indonesia who will go out with no authorisation at all and do things like log high-value trees in national parks or in buffer zones. In some cases there are individuals who will go into national parks or other protected areas and clear large areas for agriculture. That might be oil palm or other crops."

    He added that often illegal loggers travel to hard-to-reach parts of national parks, well off the beaten track, and cut down rare hardwood trees. This is because there is such a high demand for the wood for use in expensive furniture – it is a problem that has also been experienced in China.

    Mr Wadley said the EIA and other organisations have continued to put pressure on the Indonesian government, but enforcement remains difficult because different ministries regulate the lumber and palm oil industries.

    Deforestation 'caused Ebola', French environment minister says

    2015 - 11.02

    Deforestation is well known to have many negative consequences, but it has now been suggested that it could have had one that people were not aware of.

    France’s environment minister Ségolène Royal has claimed that deforestation in West Africa was one of the main factors that led to the widespread outbreak of Ebola across the region over the past two years.

    She explained: "They had to clear the forest to begin subsistence agriculture and the deforestation has also been caused by mining activity and large-scale logging for export.

    "This destruction of the natural habitat of fruit-eating bats drove the animals to approach human settlements to find food and the virus may have been transmitted during this increased contact resulting from deforestation."

    The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013 and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, with these the three main countries to be hit by the deadly virus. Cases were also noted in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal.

    As of 28 October 2015, the World Health Organization says that the total number of Ebola cases in the latest epidemic stood at 28,575, with 11,313 of these cases resulting in death.

    Ms Royal's claims are not seemingly supported by any hard evidence at this stage. Nevertheless, they highlight yet another one of the inherent dangers of deforestation, which is that felling trees destroys animals' natural habitats, forcing them to move elsewhere. It is one of the many reasons organisations such as Greenwood Management stress the importance of protecting and investing in the planet's forests.

    The French environment minister was speaking at a London summit hosted by the Prince of Wales. The one-day conference on deforestation and climate change was attended by environment ministers from Brazil, Panama, Congo and Norway, as well as a number of major private companies.

    At the same event, Prince Charles reflecting on the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris and the lasting effect the meeting could have.

    He told delegates in London: "Billions of people and, indeed, what is left of the rest of a rapidly diminishing creation, depend upon whether this time, real concerted action, and not just words, can be taken."