January 24, 2011

Accords Have Little Impact On Saving Trees

A new report says that international accords on saving vulnerable forests are having little impact because they do not attack the core causes such as growing demand for biofuels and food crops.

With Africa and South America both losing 18.3 million acres of forest a year, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) said the U.N. and governments need a drastic change of policy.

Experts around the world said in the report that too much attention is being put on forests to store carbon dioxide, which is the main process blamed for global warming.

Deforestation accounts for about a quarter of the global greenhouse gas emissions every year, which are blamed for rising temperatures.  Live trees act as a sponge for carbon dioxide but give it off when they decay or are burned.

"Our findings suggest that disregarding the impact on forests of sectors such as agriculture and energy will doom any new international efforts whose goal is to conserve forests and slow climate change," said Jeremy Rayner of the University of Saskatchewan and chairman of the IUFRO report panel.

Even the U.N. backed Reducing Deforestation in Developing countries (REDD) initiative is being criticized because the 60 international experts panel said it seeks a single global solution.

"Unless all sectors work together to address the impact of global consumption, including growing demand for food and biofuels, and problems of land scarcity, REDD will fail to arrest environmental degradation and will heighten poverty," said Constance McDermott of Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute.

The experts praised initiatives in Asia and Europe, which they said should be copied other places.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) developed a regional standard for monitoring illegal logging and also set up a special system for forest-related research.

"The hope is that such a process will allow decision-makers to learn from the mistakes of the past," said the IUFRO report.

IUFRO pointed to a U.S. law, which makes it illegal to import wood known to come from stolen timber.

The European Union (EU) is making a similar effort to halt illegal wood imports through "due diligence" investigations, which led partnerships with major exporters like Cameroon.

IUFRO said that Brazil has enacted new environmental and policy reforms that have the potential to slow forest loss in the Amazon Basin.

The report will be presented to the U.N. Forum on Forests this week as part of the launch of the International Year of Forests.


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