News in Brief - March 2018
March 7, 2018

We need some good news! Putting Down Roots, Fern’s new 15-minute film, focuses on people who are making the world better. From the remote Scottish coast to the foothills of the Himalayas to the Xingu basin in the Amazon, a grassroots revolution is unfolding in which communities are restoring diverse forests in areas that were once stripped of their trees. The benefits are manifold: community-led forest restoration is bolstering rural people’s livelihoods, stemming biodiversity loss and helping in the fight against climate change. The stories in this film show how stopping deforestation and restoring forests prevents emissions, removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforms lives.

Protecting and restoring tropical forests is crucial to tackling climate change. A new Fern report suggests that adequate forest governance could greatly contribute to the solution to climate change and strengthen climate action, including through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Links between deforestation and forest degradation and governance have received far too little attention on the international agenda surrounding NDCs, the report says. In Cameroon, forest areas subject to governance rules, such as the permanent forest domain, are better managed and experience lower deforestation rates than other forest areas. The report also stresses the importance of reversing the deforestation trend by emphasizing governance and ensuring that local communities have a real say in local climate efforts. As a major driver of deforestation in the tropics, the EU must step up forest protection and simultaneously help fight climate change by linking holistic measures, such as the FLEGT Action Plan, with the NDCs.

Indonesian and European NGOs, including Fern, have asked the negotiators of the EU-Indonesia trade deal to end deforestation before concluding the agreement. This formal request was made during the fourth round of the EU-Indonesia CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) negotiations in Indonesia. Both parties committed to halting deforestation by 2020 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet forests continue to be cleared illegally, notably for palm oil concessions. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, and the EU is its second-largest market (after India); the commodity is a key issue at the trade talks. Civil society organisations want to exclude palm oil from the negotiations, to prevent it from gaining better access to the EU market. EU representatives acknowledged that CEPA “might not be the most appropriate framework to address palm oil”.

On 22 January, Fern together with Heidi Hautala, vice president of the European Parliament (The Greens/Free Alliance), and MEPs Maria Noichl (S&D) and Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP), co-hosted the Amazon-Connection exhibition. The MEPs are calling for regulation of forest-risk commodities such as soya and palm oil. They are further urging the European Commission to act: The Commission has still not published the long-awaited results of a feasibility study for an Action Plan to halt deforestation and forest degradation. Watch the call to action here.

Cocoa is driving poverty and devastating forests in West and Central Africa, a new Fern fact sheet reports. In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which produce more than 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, the impacts have been considerable: Côte d’Ivoire has lost 85 per cent of its forest cover since 1990. The sector is causing human suffering, too: the majority of cocoa is produced by small farmers living well below the United Nations extreme poverty line. And this problem is now expanding to other countries like Cameroon and Peru, concludes research by the US-based NGO Mighty Earth. In a Euractiv blog, Fern campaigner Julia Christian argues that, as the world’s primary consumer of cocoa – responsible for 60 per cent of global imports – the EU has a clear responsibility to ensure its cocoa imports are affording farmers a living income and are free from deforestation.

Twenty one environmental NGOs have written to Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, to express their worry about the impacts of an enormous ski resort project planned in the Svydovets Massif in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains. Part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), the area is one of the country’s most beautiful, least disturbed mountain ecosystems, and is characterised by high biotic and landscape diversity, old-growth spruce and beech forests, and three natural lakes. The development – to cover a total of some 14,000 hectares with more than 60 hotels, 120 restaurants, 33 ski lifts and 230 kilometres of ski runs – would have far-reaching negative impacts. The NGOs highlight the need to support sustainable development of livelihoods in a manner that does not collide with protection of Ukrainian nature.