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News in brief - February 2015

11 fevereiro 2015

Despite years of discussions about the dangers of genetically engineered trees, it appears that the US government has quietly approved unregulated cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) loblolly pines, the first GE trees in the USA. Campaign groups raised concern that the step was taken with no government or public oversight, with no assessment of their risks to the public or the environment, and without regard to overwhelming public opposition to GE trees. The problem does not affect the USA alone; the World Rainforest Movement’s Winnie Overbeek explains, “[T]hese unregulated GE pines could be shipped to Brazil or other countries without public, or maybe even government, knowledge.”

Noting that legal reforms introduced by the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU are stagnating and fuller participation from communities in the process is needed, the Congolese Forest Platform (PGDF) called on the Republic of Congo’s (RoC) government and the EU to do more to translate their commitments into practice. At a press conference in Brazzaville, 24 January 2015, the PGDF discussed the impact of the VPA process on community rights and links with emerging issues such as REDD+ and climate change policies that could increase pressure on forests. The RoC’s new draft Forest Code still awaits parliamentary scrutiny and community participation in forest management is yet to be strengthened through additional regulations. Implementation of several other VPA activities has stalled, including disclosure of information on forest activities and fiscal revenues. PGDF urged national legislators to provide for fuller community participation and called also for the EU to meet its own commitments, including providing adequate technical and financial assistance to stakeholders such as civil society organisations.

On 29 January 2015 and in advance of a paper industry gathering in Frankfurt, the European Environmental Paper Network launched a film showing NGOs’ vision for the future of paperThe film argues that, as a global society, we need to take a fresh look at this common material, and transform the way we use it to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future. The film, which will also be available in Chinese, is the outcome of a year-long international process in which more than 140 organisations around the world endorsed a shared vision for global paper use.

A new Chatham House report reveals that the fight against illegal logging in Cameroon has been stalled since 2010. Among the problems fuelling illegal practices are corruption, poor governance, weak institutions, unclear and poorly formulated laws, the misuse of small permits, pervasive lack of transparency, inadequate law enforcement and, significantly, lack of political will to address these issues. The report recommends that these problems be addressed through stronger anti-corruption measures enforced at the highest political levels, the implementation of legal and policy reforms, the promotion of a legal timber market in China and moving forward with VPA implementation.

The Global Canopy Programme (GCP) has launched its Forests 500 project (http://forest500.org/) which lists the 250 companies, 150 investors, 50 powerbrokers (development agencies etc.) and 50 jurisdictions linked with forest destruction. The project aims to identify, rank, and track the governments, companies and financial institutions worldwide that together could “virtually eradicate tropical deforestation”. The programme tracks the companies’ own commitments and could be a useful tool to check why despite all the company commitments made deforestation is not yet going down.

A group of 78 scientists has written an open letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to challenge its assumption that burning biomass is carbon neutral. The scientists learnt of this assumption in an EPA memosuggesting that it treat all woody or agricultural feed stocks coming “from sustainable forest or agricultural practices” as “carbon-free”. The scientists fear this assumption will lead to increased logging and conversion of forests around the world, since the EPA should expect its rule for accounting carbon to be applied globally. The scientists urge the EPA not to make the same mistakes as the EU, which also considers biomass to be carbon neutral, and whose policies have seen a sharp increase in the use of bioenergy-led forest loss across the globe, including in the US. (see FW 191)

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 FERN works to achieve environmental and social justice with a focus on forests and forest peoples' rights in the policies and practices of the European Union.

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