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Article 5 keeps forests alive
Results-based payments for avoided deforestation received game-changing political affirmation in December when world leaders included strong language for forest protection in the global climate agreement in Paris. Article 5 of the Paris Agreement enshrines support for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD+. The private sector has so far only contributed about 10% of the $10 billion in global REDD+ finance, according to Forest Trends’ REDDX initiative, but “the only piece missing from the equation was a strong political signal to reassure both governments and private markets that REDD+ was here to stay,” wrote Gustavo Silva-Chavez, REDDX Manager. Select companies with zero deforestation commitments such as Coca-Cola and Danone also purchase REDD+ offsets.
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Legal ire over forest fires
The Indonesian government is investigating over 50 companies for suspected involvement with forest fires, which sent a choking haze across Southeast Asia this fall. By the end of 2015, 23 companies –mostly pulp and paper plantations – had been penalized. Three companies lost their licenses and had to shut down, four others were on probation and the remaining 16 companies have had their licenses suspended, according to the Indonesian Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya. The Straits Times claims that three of the companies were suppliers of Asia Pulp and Paper. The Singaporean government plans to take action against the companies responsible for the haze after incurring an estimated $16 billion in economic losses and having to hospitalize many people with respiratory issues.
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Where the wild fires are
The RSPO committed to publishing maps for its members’ concessions on the Global Forest Watch website by mid-2016. All concessions, certified and non-certified, will be public except for those in Malaysia, where there is ongoing legal ambiguity. This move comes in response to the rampant forest fires and haze in Southeast Asia last fall. RSPO anticipates that establishing one definitive up-to-date map of plantation ownership should improve monitoring and enforcement of RSPO standards, including restrictions on the use of fire for land clearing. Environmental groups have hailed this as an important step for improving transparency. However, Greenpeace has called on the RSPO to clarify penalties for members not disclosing maps or submitting them in cumbersome non-digital forms.
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Out of stock
Environmental groups expressed concern over the release of the final High Carbon Stock+ (HCS+) Study commissioned by the palm oil industry group, Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto (SPOM). The methodology does not strive to end all deforestation but rather aims to achieve zero net carbon emissions. The methodology permits “young regenerating forests” to be cut down if equivalent amounts of carbon are sequestered elsewhere. This is in contrast to the existing HCS Approach, supported by Greenpeace, Unilever, Cargill and others, which has been field tested on millions of hectares. Greenpeace believes the HCS+ Study will weaken corporate zero deforestation commitments. The HCS+ approach has only been field tested once in Gabon, but SPOM companies committed to establish HCS+ field trials to compare with HCS Approach results.
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In the zone
A new study from the Environmental Defense Fund looks at how companies could reduce deforestation from their supply chains by sourcing commodities from so-called Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZs). ZDZs would be regions that aim to reach zero net emissions from deforestation across their entire jurisdiction while increasing agricultural production. According to the report authors, land-use emissions in Indonesia could be reduced most cost effectively by preserving portions of all lands according to regional emission reduction opportunities rather than just a subset of lands, such as HCS areas. Provinces with strong legal, monitoring and enforcement systems for no deforestation would be obvious choices for preferential sourcing by companies such as Marks & Spencer and Unilever.
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The road to deforestation is paved with good intentions
New research in Landuse & Policy on the Congo Basin indicates that policies requiring sustainable forest management may inadvertently lead to more deforestation than conventional practices. Companies that employed sustainable logging policies were found to have higher and more dependable production and up to twice the rate of deforestation than those without a sustainability plan. The authors concluded that compliance with these standards caused companies to build logging roads over larger areas and farther into the forest interior. Human settlements also tended to grow larger around legal concessions than illegal ones, which increased pressure on remote forest regions. In another study published in Environmental Research Letters, European companies applying approved selective logging plans in the Republic of Congo were found to have higher core and edge deforestation rates than non-compliant Asian companies.
Read more from Phys.org