Deforestation and climate change report

29 June 2009

The UK and other developed countries must change patterns of consumption to reduce demand for products that directly and indirectly cause deforestation, say MPs in a report on deforestation and climate change published today.

Deforestation remains a huge threat to the global climate. An area of forest the size of England is lost each year and deforestation is the third largest source of greenhouse gases globally, producing more emissions than transport. In its fifth Report of Session 2008–09, the Environmental Audit Select Committee warns the UK Government that any post-Kyoto agreement at next December’s UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Copenhagen must include commitments and measures to:

  • remove the economic incentives that currently drive deforestation in the rainforest nations by curbing demand for commodities that contribute to deforestation
  • support rainforest nations to develop both the capacity and programmes to ensure their development path does not drive or depend upon deforestation
  • create a mechanism to pay developing countries for maintaining, and in some cases re-creating, their forests

Launching the report, Committee chairman Tim Yeo MP said:

"Giving rainforest nations money for protecting forests is simply not enough, yet so far negotiations have focused almost exclusively on the design of a payment mechanism.

"Rainforest nations deserve far more support to ensure their own development path does not drive forest degradation.

"Any international agreement must include practical measures to curb the supply and demand-side causes of deforestation. Developed nations in particular must commit themselves to taking steps that will stop business profiting from deforestation and will ensure consumers can choose more sustainable alternatives. Unless we do this, we will never dismantle the economic drivers that continue to fuel rampant deforestation. A failure to tackle deforestation could undermine all of the efforts that are being made to reduce emissions globally."

To that end the Committee calls on the UK Government to lobby for a global climate agreement in Copenhagen that will:

  • reduce the economic drivers for deforestation
  • provide a mechanism to support capacity building and effective governance in rainforest nations, particularly in terms of independent judicial systems and legal reforms, and the development of fiscal and land tenure systems that will help to halt deforestation
  • protect the local communities that are dependant on forests for their livelihoods (and encourage rainforest nations to sign and ratify ILO Convention 169 on Tribal and Indigenous Peoples)
  • identify and address the supply - and demand-side issues that drive rainforest deforestation
  • include safeguards to prevent conversion of primary forests to plantations
  • provide a mechanism to pay for reforestation, afforestation or avoided deforestation in developing and rainforest nations
  • link payments under any mechanism to the reform of governance in rainforest nations
  • provide safeguards to protect biodiversity

To reduce domestic demand for products that cause deforestation the UK Government must:

  • bring forward legislation, as promised three years ago, to ban imports of illegal timber
  • work with the rest of the EU to ensure those who place illegal timber and timber products onto the market face robust sanctions that are strongly enforced
  • require its own departments, all local authorities and the wider public sector to adopt robust timber procurement policies
  • begin work on a reassessment of global agriculture coupled with the development of sustainability standards for all agricultural products
  • remove agricultural subsidies, biofuel subsidies and other damaging trade-distorting measures

Tim Yeo adds:

"Under the current system, every time farm commodity prices escalate, so does the rate of forest clearance as pressure builds to turn forests into farmland or biofuel plantations. To break that cycle the EU and other developed nations urgently need to apply sustainability standards consistently to all agricultural food and biofuel commodities and help reform global agriculture. In the UK we must also look again at the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation and the Renewables Obligation do ensure neither stimulates or accelerates deforestation."

To strengthen capacity building and effective governance in rainforest nations the UK must:

  • ensure that UK development assistance contributes to the development of a low-carbon global economy
  • make clear what action it is taking to ensure that all strategies developed under the Forest Carbon Partnership will reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by helping rainforest nations shift to more sustainable land use
  • maintain its support for both multilateral and bilateral organisations active on forestry related issues in significant rainforest nations but ensure that projects funded bilaterally or multilaterally - via bodies such as CDC and the World Bank - are in line with the need to halt deforestation and move towards a low-carbon economy

Tim Yeo adds:

"The Committee was worried by evidence that action being taken under the Forest Carbon Partnership could be undermining work done elsewhere to improve forest governance. We believe that eligibility for forest payments should be conditional on improvements in governance and the protection of local communities. These are essential if actions to halt or reverse deforestation are to be durable.

"We recognise that some development projects may lead to managed increases in emissions and deforestation and might be justified in that developing countries have a right to increase their emissions given they had no historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Government should ensure that where possible development assistance contributes to the pursuit of a low-carbon pathway for national development and growth."

Image: iStockphoto

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