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News in brief July 2017

Greenpeace Netherlands released secret documents from the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement (JEFTA), 23 June 2017, which reveal – once again – EU policy incoherence in tackling deforestation. According to Greenpeace, provisions on timber trade in JEFTA are extremely weak: Japan is asked only to “recognise the importance” of illegal logging, with vague exhortations to “contribute to combating” it, exchange information and share experiences. Japan is one of the largest importers of plywood in the world, and a major market for illegal timber from Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Russia. However, Japan’s legislative framework to address illegal logging relies only on voluntary measures. This weak JEFTA text undermines the EU’s own efforts to tackle illegal logging and associated trade though the FLEGT Action Plan and the negotiation of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with Malaysia in particular. WeMove.eu in collaboration with Campact have set up a petition calling on the European Commission to strengthen global action against illegal logging.

 

Norway will end its billion-dollar financial support to Brazil if rising deforestation in the Amazon is not reined in, it warned. The two heads of state met in Oslo, 23 June 2017. Norway has paid USD 1.1 billion to Brazil’s Amazon fund since 2008, tied to reductions in the deforestation rate. This has fallen steadily from 2008 to 2014, but has climbed back up again since 2015. Norway’s financial support has already decreased in response to this worrying trend; it threatened that funds would be cut completely by even a slight further increase. Norway’s environment minister, Vidar Helgesen, had serious concerns that deforestation would be worsened by Brazil’s moves to remove protection from large areas of the Amazon, to weaken the environmental licensing required for agriculture and to drastically cut budgets to government ministries that protect the Amazon.

 

At its Paris meeting, June 2017, the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund (FCPF) delayed its approval of the Republic of the Congo’s Emission Reduction Programme Document. The decision is a setback for the Congolese REDD+ process, viewed positively by many donors but criticised by local and international civil society. Congo had been advancing quickly into the REDD+ investment phase.  As part of their mission to protect forests in the Congo Basin, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and the World Bank rewarded progress by awarding the Congolese government significant funds to kick off initial activities. However, justifying its decision, the FCPF flagged certain governance concerns, long highlighted by international NGOs. These include the stalled legal forest reform and rampant illegal conversion of forests for palm oil and cocoa. On the basis of independent forest monitoring, Congolese civil society organisations, including Fern’s partner FGDH, have provided solid evidence of the impacts of weak law enforcements on forests, biodiversity and local livelihoods in the Sangha, where the bulk of the REDD+ activities will take place. If REDD+ is to keep its promise to deliver benefits for the country and communities whose lives depend on healthy forests, the Congolese government and donors must address these issues urgently.

 

In May 2017, an International Trade Committee (INTA) delegation of the European Parliament visited Indonesia to discuss the new trade deal under negotiation. Tiziana Beghin, the INTA committee rapporteur on the European Parliament report on palm oil and deforestation said that deforestation of primary forest, driven by the use of fire to dry the peatlands, is a big issue and that a binding sustainable development chapter in the EU-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement is needed. Such a chapter would tackle issues such as working conditions in palm oil plantations, use of child labour in collecting the palm fruits to meet company targets, and the possibility of creating independent trade unions and defending human rights.