News in Brief - February 2018
February 5, 2018

After the deaths of more than 50 people in 2017 in open, abandoned mines, a Fern partner in Cameroon, Foder, has launched the “Trop, c’est trop” campaign. The tragic human toll is the unacceptable consequence of poor governance and the lack of security measures. FODER proposes practical solutions to the Government of Cameroon, and gives individuals the opportunity to add their voices to those calling for change.

Following Fern research exposing heavy deforestation and community conflict at the project site, Virgin Atlantic has pulled out of a forest offset project in Cambodia. The project’s failure is emblematic of deeper problems with forest offsetting, which can never guarantee permanent carbon storage to balance out the emissions they were intended to offset. Indeed, this small victory pales when held up to the alarming plans of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – to double emissions between now and 2050 and “compensate” much of this with forest offsets – argues Fern campaigner Julia Christian. The reality is that we do not have enough space left in our “carbon budget” to choose between reducing emissions and protecting forests – we must do both. If they really care about climate action, international airlines must come up with a plan to actually reduce emissions.

On 6 February 2018, at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels, Fern will host the Belgian première of Silas”, the story of environmental activist Silas Siakor, a laureate of the 2006 Goldman Prize. A former director of the Sustainable Development Institute and close, long-time Fern partner, Silas has dedicated his life to fighting illegal logging in Liberia and is renowned for his investigative work exposing how revenues from logging helped finance Charles Taylor during the civil war. Silas will attend the première and join Fern’s Saskia Ozinga in a Q&A after the screening. Tickets for the event are available here. 

Save the date! On 7 March 2018, at the European Parliament, Fern will organise, “EU leadership on climate: How can forests bring us to 1.5°C? an event chaired by MEP Heidi Hautala, vice president of the European Parliament Development Committee. The event will explore how the EU can use its development and trade policies to support climate efforts. This includes the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, better connecting Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of developing forested countries, and examining ways in which carbon sequestration of forests can be enhanced via EU policies.

Poland’s political posture toward the European Union and to Białowieża Forest has recently improved, and while there is cause for hope, there may also be cause for concern. Poland has a new prime minister, and certain cabinet members antagonistic to the EU have been replaced. This includes Poland’s Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, who openly provoked the EU in the on-going dispute over Poland’s logging of the World Heritage forest and alleged violations of the EU's Habitats and Bird's directives (FW 227). However, activists worry that recent positive changes may be only skin deep.

Over-reliance on negative emissions as a silver bullet to combat climate change should be ruled out, say the scientists of the European Science Advisory Council (EASAC) in a new report. They criticise the countries’ “lack of urgency” in tackling climate change, stress the need for more rapid emission reductions and warn against the environmental risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). In line with Fern’s recent Return of the Trees report, the EASAC urges nations to conserve and restore forests and soils as a means of storing more carbon in ecosystems and limiting warming.

In November 2017, in Abidjan, more than 50 civil society organisations (CSOs) from across Francophone Africa and Europe issued a powerful statement condemning land-grabbing in Africa and identifying solutions to end it. The declaration denounces the criminalisation, persecution and killings of land-grabbing victims and land rights activists, and calls on civil society groups to monitor the implementation of trade agreements, food security and development programmes, and economic investments supported by international financial institutions. The signatories demand that ongoing land reforms in countries be transparent, inclusive, participatory, consensual and centred on the common good. Echoing much of Fern’s analysis relating to the responsibility of EU banks and investors in financing land grabs and deforestation, the statement also urges African governments to ensure effective implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and the African Land Policy Framework and Guidelines.

With CAP reform on the EU horizon, Fern campaigner Nicole Polsterer shares her views about why agroecology should be the buzzword in EU farm policy negotiations, here.