News in brief - April 2018
April 12, 2018

Healing the world’s ecosystems and restoring degraded lands makes economic sense, according to a recent report by the UN. Currently 75 per cent of world ecosystems have become degraded, which contributes to food insecurity, biodiversity loss and climate change, and threatens the well-being of 3.2 billion people, driving migration. In 2010, the cost of degradation was equivalent to about 10 per cent of the world’s annual gross product. The report also finds that reversing environmental degradation makes sound economic sense, as the benefits of restoration are 10 times higher than its costs. We are already seeing positive examples where people take action: Fern’s video Putting Down Roots shows how communities restoring natural forests not only heal the land, but also transform lives.

It is past time to take it seriously: the accelerating decline of our planet’s biodiversity poses a world threat on a par with climate change. Involving more than 550 leading scientists from 100 countries, the UN-backed IPBES’s comprehensive biodiversity studies do not make for light reading. The regional assessments indicate that relentless consumption, conversion of forests to croplands, disappearance of pollinating insects due to chemicals, climate change, and habitat loss all contribute to a global breakdown of biodiversity that increases our vulnerability to extreme weather events. Worse, biodiversity collapse also puts societies’ ability to support the basics – food, water, housing – at risk, and the poor will bear most of the unbearable brunt. The reports will be used to shape policy at a Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh late this year, but more broadly, fundamental behaviour change is needed: curbing food and water waste, shifting to less beef- and soya-intensive/land-destroying diets. All is not lost, yet.

Forests are crucial to keeping the climate in balance, are home to most of the world’s biodiversity and are vital to the survival of the millions of people whose livelihoods directly depend on them; their importance in achieving climate objectives must therefore receive greater political attention. This key message emerged at the “Achieving the 1.5° C Target with Forests: What Role for the EU? event chaired by MEPs Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA) and Carlos Zorrinho (S&D) and coordinated by Fern. The event underscored the relevance and impact of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), and the multiple benefits of restoring degraded forests ecosystems by working closely with local communities. Participants explored new Fern reports – about applying VPA lessons to the Paris Agreement, and about the role of forests and governance in setting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – which agree that transposing VPA forest governance principles into NDCs would maximise their climate impact. It is not too late: the EU should use its diplomatic and trade power to ensure that forests reach their potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and achieve climate benefits.

Following the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) announcement that they are lifting a 16-year-old moratorium on new logging concessions, and in the wake of a secretive, non-participatory revision process of the DRC’s forest code, more than 50 NGOs, including Fern, called on the international community to halt all forest-related funding to the DRC. NGOs warn that, in a tense pre-electoral climate, this will likely affect forests and the forest communities. In response, DRC’s donors including the EU, Norway, the UK, USAID and the World Bank sent a strong message threatening to suspend funding, including supported provided under the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), if the DRC provides no guarantee that the moratorium will not be lifted. Donors argue that such a decision is not coherent with the letter of intent the DRC signed with CAFI nor with its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) engagements.