On 21 March 2016, to mark International Forests Day, WWF launched a Forest Solutions Platform. The website lists 13 solutions to deforestation. “This platform is designed to create a space for dialogue, learning and sharing different viewpoints so that we can co-create solutions,” WWF writes.
WWF’s Forest Solutions Platform is interactive. You can click on little hearts to vote for the solutions you like. Each of the solution diagrams links to more information and you can leave comments. At the end there’s an option to “share your innovative ideas”. So far, five people have done so.
Here is WWF’s list of “solutions” in order of popularity (so far):
The good news is that the three most unpopular solutions are:
- responsible purchasing, such as buying FSC-certified timber (I co-run a website called FSC-Watch, which is critical of FSC);
- forest friendly infrastructure (which is surely an oxymoron that will lead to increased deforestation); and
- REDD (as you may have noticed, I run a website called REDD-Monitor, which is critical of REDD).
But it’s not all good news. Responsible forest management (including FSC certification) is the second most popular solution. And landscape approaches (a World Bank promoted scheme that’s bit like REDD on steroids) is fourth.
In a comment on the Forest Solutions Platform REDD page, Kathleen McAfee, Associate Professor of International Relations, San Francisco State University, sums up in three short sentences what is wrong with REDD:
REDD does nothing at all to reduce the world’s emission of greenhouse gasses. At best, it shifts the burden of mitigating climate change onto the people and places least responsible for it and least able to cope with it. It is a dangerous distraction from the need to stop the production of fossil fuels at the source.
Ignoring conservation refugees
The most popular of WWF’s “solutions” is protected areas and indigenous reserves. “Well-managed protected areas, including indigenous reserves, can provide sanctuaries for biodiversity and serve as a reservoir for future restoration,” WWF writes.
In February 2016, Survival International launched a formal complaint with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development about WWF’s activities in Cameroon. Survival International accuses WWF of supporting and funding anti-poaching squads that have carried out human rights abuses against the Baka indigenous people in southeast Cameroon.
Should we expect solutions from forestry professionals?
Held every six years since 1926, the World Forestry Congress is the world’s largest gathering of forestry professionals. The entrance fee (US$353) ensured that grassroots community-based organisations working on small budgets were excluded.
Myriah Cornwell, programme officer with the Goldman Environmental Prize, writes,
This made for a meeting of government officials, business representatives, academics, and delegates from large NGOs that could afford entrance — leaving out the perspectives of grassroots communities on the frontlines of logging and deforestation.
Plantations are not forests!
Ouside the World Forestry Congress, more than 2,000 people protested, carrying banners that read, “Plantations are not forests!”.
Inside the World Forestry Congress, Peter Gardiner announced, “We honestly have the solutions”. Gardiner is Natural Resource Group Manager for Mondi, one of the biggest pul[p and paper companies in the world. Mondi runs vast areas of monoculture tree plantations and polluting pulp mills.
Obviously, WWF’s fifth “solution”, “well managed plantations”, came from asking people (like Mondi’s Gardiner) inside the World Forestry Congress, not the people protesting outside. This “solution” is based on WWF’s plantation industry greenwashing exercise “New Generation Plantations”. (I’ll write more about “New Generation Plantations” in a future post.)
WWF’s Forest Solutions Platform doesn’t focus on one single solution, but presents a range of options. And some of the solutions are better than others. The third most popular solution, investment in locally controlled forestry, for example, is a potentially promising way forward.
WWF’s eighth most popular solution, tenure reform, is a watering down of the importance of land rights. WWF provides a link to a 2012 report about “Community tenure and REDD+”, but land rights are crucial regardless of REDD.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights are not on WWF’s list. Neither is the importance of stopping land grabs. Nor is over-consumption on the list (although recycling/re-using and diet change are mentioned). There is no mention of the various initiatives to map indigenous peoples’ land.
There are many other solutions. These solutions, though, must come from the indigenous peoples and local communities who live in the forests. The forests are, after all, their forests.
The range of solutions that WWF lists is biased because WWF asked about solutions at the World Forestry Congress – a forum that excludes the vast majority of indigenous peoples and local communities.
WWF is planning to expand the debate, but it will explicitly remain focussed on forestry experts:
A forum feature will be added in the coming months to expand collaboration and create a community of conservationists, foresters, academics, policymakers, companies, entrepreneurs and other professionals. If you’re interested in participating in the forum, please contact Huma (Huma.Khan@wwfus.org).
Still missing from this discussion (as they were missing at the World Forestry Congress) are the voices of indigenous peoples and “grassroots communities on the frontlines of logging and deforestation”.