Developed World Timber Demand Threatens to Undermine REDD Forest Protection Program

timber logs photo

photo: iangbl via flickr.

It often seems like the answer (or at least part of it) to many environmental problems: Reduce consumption of natural resources. And when it comes to reducing deforestation the Environmental Investigation Agency says that reducing demand for forest products is a key component of a successful REDD forest protection program, but that it's not being addressed enough:In a new report, Putting the Breaks on Drivers of Forest Destruction [PDF], the EIA says that without addressing demand for timber in the developing world -- most demand for forests products coming from international markets not domestic ones -- there's a good chance REDD will fail to actually protect forests. The report blames "indiscriminate markets".

Indiscriminate Markets Create Race to Bottom

Very few policies exist that create incentives for buyers -- whether importers, retailers or end consumers -- to seek information about the legality or sustainability of the forest and agricultural products they buy. Price is the only real factor is determining demand at a global level, creating a race to the cheapest production techniques.

The enormous financial streams that flow from "no questions asked" timber and agricultural markets intersect with corruption and capacity limitations to producer countries to create a situation where illegality, lack of law enforcement, and impunity and the norm. This toxic blend stifles good forest governance creating a vicious cycle that fosters conditions conducive to additional deforestation and degradation.

Phew... a mouthful, if right on analytically. But how to address it? One way is to ensure that the REDD text currently being negotiated incorporates stronger language -- something with the US and several nations of the receiving end of REDD funds support, but the EU does not.

Policies Must Be Implemented to Support Producers' Good Governance
Mongabay has text that the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (of which EIA is a part) would like added:

All parties shall support REDD actions by undertaking policies and measures, that identify and address the diverse social and economic drivers of deforestation and forest degradation to relieve the pressures on forests and land that result in greenhouse gas emissions. [within the objectives and scope section]

All parties that consume forest products should implement policies and measures to support the laws and legal frameworks of other sovereign states, to further prevent the conversion or degradation of natural forests.[as safeguards section, to address illegal wood imports and exports]

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