News in brief - May 2015

13 May 2015

Seeing the forests through the trees, a new report from Fern analysing the ‘transparency annexes’ of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) in five African countries, shows that VPA implementation is helping increase disclosure of information about forest concessions, logging permits and production volumes, but also shows that in all countries studied, governments have been slow to fully disclose the information listed in the transparency annex. Further progress will depend on stronger political will and the implementation of robust information management systems and effective communications strategies. The report is also available as a short presentation.

A group of NGOs, including Fern, have issued an alert to banks taking part in a US$ 400 million bond issue to raise money for Golden Agri Resources (GAR), the world’s second largest palm oil company. GAR adopted a forest policy in 2011 in an effort to ease concerns about its social and environmental record. But NGOs say important issues relating to projects, e.g. in West Kalimantan and Liberia remain unresolved. In March 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) found GAR to be in violation of certification standards and procedures. Banks acting for GAR responded with a statement defending the company’s record. As of 7 May, the RSPO has banned GAR from further expansion in West Kalimantan amid land disputes and violation of High Conservation Value areas.

While large-scale use of biomass for electricity generation in Western Europe is misguided, the extent to which small-scale and locally sourced bioenergy production can contribute to future renewable energy targets remains to be seen. At least some local bioenergy projects seem to point in the right direction. Two projects funded by European Regional Development Funds in the Czech Republic and Slovakia show that it may be easier to ensure sustainability when biomass is sourced locally. Perhaps such projects are more sustainable because the local community monitors them more closely; and because, to obtain local support, the benefits for the (local) economy, environment and people must be clear.

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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