Addressing the Real Drivers of Forest Loss
Deforestation and forest degradation account for an estimated 12 -17% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is widely recognized that the real drivers of forest loss need to be addressed if policies to reduce deforestation and forest degradation are to succeed. However, initial talks at the Climate negotiations have not lead to any concrete results, and current negotiations seem focused on exploring how forest conservation projects can be used as cheap carbon offset options rather than addressing the real drivers of forest loss.
Globally, more than 80% of forest loss is caused by agriculture. The most important agriculture-related drivers include industrial bioenergy, which is driving the expansion of oil palm plantations and other monocultures, and excessive meat consumption, which is driving the expansion of soy plantations and cattle ranching in, especially, South America.
The Global Forest Coalition (GFC) is a coalition of 54 Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations and NGOs from 39 different countries promoting rights-based, socially just forest conservation policies. With support of APE, GFC hopes to convince policy-makers of the need to address the real drivers of forest loss through genuine solutions. Such measures would include the review of subsidies and other perverse incentives that promote bioenergy expansion and intensive livestock farming, and respect for the rights of forest peoples.
The project includes the following campaigns:
- Industrial bioenergy continues to be subsidized and otherwise promoted in many countries, despite growing awareness that it is directly and indirectly triggering massive conversion of forests and causing other havoc. With support from APE, GFC will publish an updated report on the impact of industrial bioenergy on forests.
- Despite a growing awareness that unsustainable livestock production is responsible for more than 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, very few countries have developed policies to address this. A policy paper on this driver of forest loss will be produced with concrete recommendations for action by policy-makers.
- National drivers of forest loss vary from country to country, but they are often related to the lack of respect for the rights and needs of Indigenous Peoples and other forest peoples, and women and the drivers mentioned above. Through campaigns in, a.o. Uganda, Tanzania, Brazil, Colombia, India, China, the UK and the US, GFC members and allies will put pressure on their national policy-makers to address the drivers of forest loss. National workshops with social movements, Indigenous organizations and policy-makers will be organized, and the results of these workshops will be summarized in a global report.
- A strategic advocacy campaign targeting the climate negotiations will be implemented to convince policy-makers of the need to address these drivers. Both reports, the policy paper and other campaign materials will be presented during side events and exhibitions at the climate negotiations that will take place in Bonn in June and in Warsaw in November.
PROJECT UPDATE FEBRUARY 2014
The ‘meatballs, automobiles and climate change’ project aimed to raise the awareness of policy-makers and social movements to the need to address the real drivers of forest loss through the organization of side events, exhibitions and advocacy activities at the climate talks. The campaign focused on two important drivers that are often ignored in policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+): meat consumption and production, and large-scale, industrial wood-based bioenergy. The project included analysis by member and partner groups in Uganda, Tanzania, Colombia, Brazil and India on the underlying causes of forest loss in their countries, and to what extend REDD+ policies are addressing them. The results of this analysis were compiled in a report entitled REDD+ and the Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, which was launched at the 19th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and widely disseminated.
Summaries in Spanish and French of the report were published as well. The report concluded amongst others that REDD+ projects and policies currently fail to address the drivers of forest loss, and that they might even contribute to further deforestation by suggesting that forests only have to be protected if there is some form of financial compensation to do so. Meanwhile, drivers that are linked to international commodity chains like meat, feedstock and bioenergy remain unaddressed, as REDD+ only provides payments to reduce forest loss at the national level.
The project also included the publication of two specific briefing papers on the impact of unsustainable livestock production and wood-based bioenergy on forests. The briefing paper on unsustainable livestock production described the impacts of cattle ranching and soy production on forests and forest peoples, and the climate, biodiversity and social impacts of unsustainable livestock production in general.
The report “Wood Bioenergy: Green Land Grabs for Dirty ‘Renewable’ Energy” describes how the rapidly increasing demand for wood for large-scale, industrial bioenergy production is heavily incentivized by policy mandates and subsidies in, especially, the EU and the US, and how it is triggering massive deforestation and forest degradation.
The five groups that contributed to the report on the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation also implemented national advocacy and awareness raising campaigns on the need to address the real drivers of forest loss. For example, in India, the All Indian Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) collaborated with Equations in the organization of three consultation meetings with representatives of forest communities, advocacy groups and policy research groups on land grabbing, the underlying causes of forest loss and Indian forest policies. The consultations took place on 3 August 2013 in Itanagar, Arunchal Pradesh, on 19 September 2013 in New Delhi, and on 21 and 22 September in Chandrapur, Maharasthra. More than 100 people participated in the meetings, which concluded amongst others that biodiversity offsets and REDD+ initiatives are violating the rights of the forest communities that have been the main stewards of forests in India until now. These findings were communicated to the Indian government at a government organized consultation in December 2013.
Other examples of national advocacy work include meetings organized by CENSAT Agua Viva/Friends of the Earth-Colombia with their government to share their concerns about the national REDD+ program and the fact that it fails to address the real drivers of forest loss. In Uganda, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) organized a national workshop on the measures needed to address the underlying causes of forest loss on 3 September in Kampala, in which 45 people participated. They also organized various media and outreach activities, including radio shows, to highlight the need to address the underlying causes of forest loss in Uganda – radio is one of the most effective means of reaching out to rural communities in Uganda.
Last but not least, within the scope of the project GFC has actively promoted a number of non-market based policy measures that would address the real drivers of forest loss. These do not only include a redirection of subsidies away from destructive sectors like bioenergy and unsustainable livestock farming, but also the recognition of Indigenous territories and community conserved areas (ICCAs), which form hopeful examples of the powerful role communities can play in conserving and restoring forests.
The report “Wood-based Bioenergy: Green Land Grabs for Renewable Energy”, which we launched in October, can be downloaded from: http://globalforestcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/GFC-wood-bioenergy-update-FINAL-OCT.pdf