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News in Brief

Saskia Ozinga remembers Wally Menne, of southern Africa’s Timberwatch Coalition, who passed away 26 October 2017: “I first met Wally Menne at a meeting of the World Rainforest Movement in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1998. He expressed a feeling of homecoming, being with people who all understood the damage caused by large-scale tree plantations. A tireless and single-minded advocate against the takeover of land by plantation companies in his native South Africa, he will be much missed by all those continuing the fight against plantations. The last time we met, at the 2015 Forest Movement Europe meeting in Brussels, we discussed the importance of building bridges and focusing on areas where there is consensus to build movements rather than on the disagreements between NGOs. Today, that message is more important than ever. Fern sends its deepest condolences to his family.”

 

Another wave of forest fires has swept Portugal, months after NGOs called for an end to Portugal’s deadly eucalyptus plantations. Interior minister Constança Urbano de Sousa has been replaced amid criticism of the government’s handling of the fires that have killed more than 100 people in four months. To stop the fires recurring, eucalyptus plantations need to be replaced and land restored to be more carbon rich, biodiverse, and resistant to fires. A biologist told the Guardian that replacing eucalyptus with strawberry trees had proved more resistant to the flames and that such measures should be taken “on a larger scale.”

 

It seems that when it comes to illegal logging legislation, where the EU leads, others are beginning to follow. More than a decade after the EU launched FLEGT, its own action plan to reduce illegal logging, more information is becoming available about how other countries are responding to the challenge. The EU FLEGT Facility has released a briefing explaining the Chinese Timber Legality Verification System and another comparing Japan’s Clean Wood Act and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). Meanwhile, ClientEarth has released a comparison of illegal logging laws in the EU, the US, Australia and Japan.

 

After spending EUR 587 million over ten years to develop Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) technology, the EU still has no CCS plants, research by EUobserver has found. The investigation covered 68 CCS-related projects that have received an EU subsidy or grant in the past decade, or were supported by a procurement project. CCS, which involves capturing some of the emissions from coal-fired power stations and burying them underground, has been pushed by some policymakers as a key climate solution. It is increasingly clear however that it isn’t even financially viable. In October 2017, the Norwegian government slashed its budget for CCS development by 90 per cent, in response to growing doubts about its costs and effectiveness. The UK’s GBP 1 billion CCS scheme was also shuttered in 2015 without producing any working examples of the technology. These issues should worry proponents of Bioenergy Carbon Capture & Storage (BECCS), which involves burning trees for bioenergy, capturing the emissions and then burying them underground. Aside from feared impacts on forests, food security and emissions levels, news around the financial unviability of CCS suggests that BECCS is not financially worthwhile.

 

Forest communities are essential to the fight against climate change, and manage some 24 per cent of the carbon stored in the world’s tropical forest soils. This was the message of the Guardians of the Forest, a group of forest community activists who made a bus tour of Europe in October and November 2017. Hailing from 13 countries in Latin America and Asia, the activists highlighted the successes of forest-dependent communities in protecting tropical forests, often in the face of grave danger. In 2016, 200 environmental activists were killed, of which nearly half were indigenous leaders. During their trip to Europe, the Guardians of the Forest met with policy-makers from the EU, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK – including Nicolas Hulot, the Environment Minister of France. They then went on to Bonn to deliver their message at the UN climate conference