Systemic illegalities persist in the Republic of Congo’s (RoC) forest sector, despite the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) it signed with the EU to combat illegal timber trade. The RoC’s Independent Monitor of the implementation of forest law and governance recently revealed1 that six new logging permits were awarded in January 2016 to several logging companies2 in violation of the country’s laws and regulations. Local civil society organisations, including Fern’s partner Forum pour le Gouvernance et les Droits Humains, believe that this is a serious breach of the VPA and a setback for the ongoing reforms intended to increase transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s vast forests. Fern joins these groups in calling on the Congolese government to work closely with the EU to implement the VPA and to end impunity in the forest sector. Fern also asks the EU and Member States, in accordance with the EU Timber Regulation, to be diligent in ensuring that no illegally harvested timber and forest products from the RoC enter the EU market.
1. 17 August 2016, Note d’analyse N° 09/CAGDF
2. Including FSC-certified Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), a subsidiary of Olam.
Fern’s latest video blog examines how changes in forestry and forest governance have been helping to empower local women in Liberia, which in 2014 ranked 146th of 186 countries on the gender equality index. Despite being generally responsible for day-to-day agricultural activities, Liberian women are disadvantaged in education, obstructed from land ownership and underrepresented in governance. Julie Weah of the Foundation for Community Initiatives talks about the changes she has seen: NGOs in Liberia are using the participatory processes of Liberia’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union as a vehicle for involving women in decision-making – improving more than just forestry.
On 15 November 2016, Indonesia is expected to issue the world’s first FLEGT licence. This indicates progress, but does not mean that Indonesia’s FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is perfect. The EU and Indonesia agreed that enough progress has been made in implementing the requirements of the FLEGT VPA to allow the licences to be issued. They will provide ‘green lane’ access to European markets for licensed Indonesian timber products. While this is a significant milestone, concerns about Indonesia’s FLEGT VPA remain. Responding to the news, JPIK, the network of Indonesian civil society forest monitors, stated that “FLEGT licencing should be seen as a challenge to strengthen the system, and maintain and build system credibility and accountability.” JPIK and other civil society organisations issued a statement on FLEGT licencing in Indonesia earlier this year, and have issued a series of urgent recommendations for the Indonesian government and the European Commission. There will be a more in-depth article about Indonesia in the forthcoming VPA-Update.
Earthsight, with support from Fern, has created a new website to monitor the devastating impact of illegal large-scale commercial agriculture, a driver of global deforestation. Illegal Deforestation Monitor (IDM at www.bad-ag.info) combines aggregated news on illegal deforestation with in-depth analysis of cases, from the Amazon to Southeast Asia. You can use the website to discover, for example, the destructive footprint of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, drone footage of illegal fires to clear forests in Indonesia, the destruction wrought by poorly coordinated forest policy in Paraguay, and much more.
In September 2016, the New Scientist published an article and video on the use of woody biomass for energy that reveals the renewable energy scam contributing to global warming. The article warns that woody biomass, the biggest source for renewable energy, is not reducing carbon emissions by as much as is claimed, and has a number of other negative impacts, such as reducing biodiversity and increasing pressure on forests (FW210). The article in particular explains why it cannot be assumed that bioenergy reduces emissions compared to the use of fossil fuels, and that emissions from bioenergy are not correctly accounted for.
In a rare display of solidarity, the speedy ratification of the Paris Agreement shows what the EU is able to achieve when they act together. This is overshadowed, however, by statements made by the Polish Environment Minister in a letter, seen by Fern, indicating that Poland’s conditions for ratification rested on permission to offset their emissions through their forests’ natural sequestration of carbon dioxide. Not only does this disregard the difference between fossil and atmospheric carbon, it also overlooks how small the remaining carbon budget is. Most emission reduction pathways that aim to limit warming to below two degrees Celsius include a sustained period of ‘negative emissions’ – when more emissions are removed than emitted. In other words, the role that forests play in sequestering emissions must come in addition to decarbonising the economy, not instead of.