Myth: Sustainable forest management will reduce emissions from forests and bring sustainable development.
Sustainable forest management is part of REDD-plus, included in 2010 in the Cancun Agreements. The reality is that sustainable forest management is the myth that allows illegal logging to continue with impunity.
Everyone these days practices sustainable forest management. Even Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau, one of the world’s most destructive logging companies claims on its website to practice “sustainable forest management”.
As Patrick Alley of Global Witness points out in a recent TEDX talk, sustainable forest management is a “nasty little euphemism”. The logging industry has managed to portray itself as an almost philanthropic venture, bringing jobs and development. Alley explains that,
“You can divide the industrial logging industry in the tropics into two categories: The criminal and the legitimate. The criminal is criminal. And the legitimate is much the same, but with better PR.”
The logging industry has had plenty of help in pulling off this perfect crime, as Alley describes it. Continued logging in the tropics has even been encouraged with tax-payers’ money. In the nine years up to June 2011, the World Bank poured US$4.1 billion into the forestry sector. A 2013 review by the Independent Evaluation Group found that overall these projects have failed to address poverty or to benefit local communities.
Predictably, Bank management rejected the criticism and the money from the World Bank keeps coming. In August 2013, the World Bank announced that it was handing out US$31.83 million for participatory sustainable forest management in Laos. This is a country that has seen its forests devastated by illegal logging, which shows no signs of stopping before the last forest has been felled. Yet rather than supporting initiatives to round up the criminals running the illegal logging, the World Bank is pouring in yet more money into little more than greenwash for continued logging.
Recent research led by scientists from Lancaster University reveals that the impact of selective logging and surface wildfires in the Amazon has been grossly underestimated. Greenpeace calls logging in the Amazon “The Silent Crisis“.
Meanwhile, research on the forests of the Republic of Congo carried out by scientists at the University of Michigan reveals that “compliance with Sustainable Forest Management policies may not mitigate degradation in tropical production forests”. They found that forest destruction was higher in concessions run by European companies than in those run by Asia companies, despite the fact that European companies were far more likely to comply with sustainable forest management policies. The researchers conclude that, “the fragmentation of intact forests in Congo is strongly associated with industrial logging fueled by foreign capital”.
This is the second in an occasional series of REDD myths on REDD-Monitor. If you have suggestions for other “REDD myths”, please let me know in the comments.
PHOTO credit: Greenpeace.