THE recent climate talks in Bangkok, Thailand, highlighted the clear differences between developing countries and some developed countries and NGOs on forestry.
While there is still disagreement about the types of activities that should be included under the REDD-plus (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus sustainable forest management and conservation) framework, tropical forested countries made it clear that their right to develop forests for commercial uses and convert forested land would be paramount.
Much of the discussion focused on social, environmental and governance safeguards for the scheme.
Yet once a call for a safeguard on forest conversion was made, both Peru and Brazil immediately underlined that this could not apply to forestry operations using sustainable forest management.
More strikingly, Congo Basin countries, led by the Democratic Republic of Congo objected to any reference to “avoiding conversion of forests”.
Similarly, when social safeguards on indigenous peoples, both Malaysia and Indonesia stressed that any text would have to make room for existing national legislation.
This hands-off approach to national sovereignty was also echoed by Singapore and surprisingly Norway, when discussing governance safeguards.
The upshot of the meeting is that many developing countries have staked their claim on their right to choose their development path – whether through sustainable forest management and food production or joining the green welfare queue.
Recently, the head of Brazil’s most respected scientific research body said that emissions from forest loss may be overstated.
Gilberto Camara, the director of his country’s respected National Institute for Space Research (NISR), said emissions from deforestation were likely to be far less than the 20% figure currently accepted as popular wisdom among climate change policymakers.
“I’m not in favour of conspiracy theories,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“But I should only state that the two people who like these figures are developed nations, who would like to overstress the contribution of developing nations to global carbon, and of course environmentalists.”
NISR research has shown that Brazil’s emissions from deforestation contribute to roughly 2.5% of global emissions.
Given that Brazil is responsible for roughly one-quarter of all deforestation emissions, Camara estimates that the true deforestation emissions figure is closer to 10%.
NISR used a method that closely analysed satellite data over the past five years, which indicated a much lower deforestation rate than that offered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
On this basis, he described REDD as being a fundamentally-weak concept.
Camara said developed countries had no reason to question the figure, as it a laid a significant proportion of the blame for emissions on developing countries.
In Malaysia, the idea that orang-utans and forest plantations are incompatible was comprehensively debunked at a recent conservation conference.
Erik Meeijard of The Nature Conservancy currently working with USAID’s Orang-Utan Conservation and Survival Programme in Indonesian Borneo, gave a presentation that showed orang-utans are able to survive reasonably well alongside acacia plantations – one of the main feedstocks for pulp and paper manufacturers in tropical countries.
Meeijard’s programme had confirmed populations of 3,000 orang-utans living in acacia plantation areas in Borneo.
The orang-utans were gaining part of their dietary requirements from the acacia trees themselves, although Meeijard was quick to point out that acacia bark was no substitute for a balanced diet from natural forests as well as plantations.
Meeijard stated that there were “real opportunities” for the pulp and paper sector to collaborate on conservation programmes.
Other presentations at the conference in Sabah, Malaysia, highlighted the many threats currently facing orang-utans, which are often overlooked in international conservation campaigns, particularly hunting and mining.
Dr Marc Ancreanz, head of the France-based NGO Hutan and organiser of the conference, urged both industry and Green groups to work more closely on the issue and end the polarised approach to the public debate. – WorldGrowth