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Action Alert: Myth of "Certified, Sustainable Ancient Forest Logging" Threatens the World's Rainforests and Climate

Tell the World Bank, WWF and Greenpeace to stop aiding and abetting failed "sustainable" and "certified" forest management for the Congo Basin and elsewhere, and instead commit to End Ancient Rainforest Logging

By Forests.org, a project of EcoInternet - April 29, 2007

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Additional Background

Ecological Internet's "End Ancient Forest Logging" Campaign Intensifies

Africa's Congo Basin contains the world's second largest rainforest; a haven for vital global biodiversity and ecosystem services, and a safeguard against runaway global warming. This locally, regionally and globally critical ecological system is being devastated by illegal logging. Sadly, many organizations trusted by their members and funders to protect ancient rainforests continue to emphasize "improved forest governance", "sustainable forest management" and "forest certification" after decades of failure to reform industrial logging.

Requirements for global ecological sustainability and socially just, equitable sustainable development dictate that the Earth's entire remaining large, contiguous rainforests are protected from any further industrial development. Sadly, this will require confronting the global ancient forest logging apologist industry.

The Congo Basin covers the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), most of Congo Republic, the southeastern reaches of Cameroon, southern Central African Republic, Gabon and mainland Equatorial Guinea. The DRC has the largest rainforests, containing 1,352,070 square kilometers (522,037 miles) of natural forests, representing six percent of the world’s tropical forests and more than 47 percent of Africa’s tropical forests. About 400 mammal species live in the Congo Basin, including the world's largest populations of lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and forest elephants. Some 655 bird species and over 10,000 plant species can be found.

Industrial logging devastates these species and ecosystems, brings few local benefits, while both local rainforest communities suffer as their rainforests are razed for a pittance, and the entire globe's climate and biological wealth are diminished. Up to 40 million people depend on the Congo rainforest for survival. Forest communities have been promised miserable gifts such as bags of salt, machetes, soap, coffee and beer in exchange for government-issued logging rights worth many millions of dollars. The loggers' promises to build hospitals and schools for forest communities almost always remain unfulfilled. Large-scale protection of the region's rainforests is a requirement for addressing global climate change. About 8% of the Earth's forest carbon storage is trapped in the DRC's rainforests. Clearance of DRC's forests could release more than 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050 -- the equivalent of UK's total emissions for the past 60 years. Even 'selective logging' releases massive amounts of carbon.

The World Bank is failing to stop logging firms from devastating the tropical rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the Bank-mediated 2002 logging moratorium deal, the government of the DRC agreed not to issue any further logging licenses or to renew any existing contracts in return for $90 million in development aid. Since then an estimated 100 logging contracts covering 15 million hectares have been issued. Many are in the process of being legalized as part of a review subsequently initiated by the World Bank. The World Bank has yet again fallen short of its aims of bringing the logging industry under control, making industrial logging environmentally and socially acceptable, and ensuring local communities benefit from valuable logging contracts.

The DRC government, World Bank and even WWF and Greenpeace view large-scale industrial "legal", "sustainable" and "certified" logging of the Congo and other rainforests as the best that can be done to protect them and their biodiversity, their regional and global ecosystem services, and development potential for the region's peoples. The scientific literature and years of failed, ecologically and socially devastating tropical rainforest logging show clearly that there is no such thing as "sustainable management" of ancient forests. Logging primary forests for the first time results in species composition, structure and dynamics that are irreversibly diminished and much of their carbon is released.

After some two decades of failed Bank and mainstream conservation organization's forest "sustainable" logging initiatives, which have consolidated the hold of logging interests on the World's last ancient forests, and given concerns regarding climate change, it is time to stop working to reform and instead shut down ancient forest logging. Effected communities and nations must of course be compensated by developed countries for this avoided deforestation and diminishment.

DRC's rainforests and their environmental and social services will only be sustained through protection and a complete cessation of industrial logging, with development limited to community based small-scale eco-forestry activities. In the face of ongoing illegal forest operations and climate change, the DRC government, World Bank and conservation stakeholders must stop enabling ecologically and socially criminal logging, and instead seek to end industrial ancient forest logging and to fund community based alternatives.

WWF, the global conservation organization, has promoted industrial forest certification in the DRC, and throughout the world's last natural, large and intact forests. WWF works with and takes money from logging companies -- including some of the world's worst ecological abusers -- to help get their primary rainforest logging operations certified. The supposed gold-standard of forest certification is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which is closely associated with both WWF and Greenpeace. There continue to be serious and ongoing problems with the FSC including repeated issuing of totally unacceptable certificates and certifiers certifying essentially whatever they want. The rules on 'High Conservation Value Forests' are just one set of rules that are routinely violated, and FSC's principles make no claims of ecological sustainability.

It is terrible bordering on sacrilege that in the DRC, Greenpeace supports a moratorium but not an end to industrial logging, that WWF continues to advocate and work with loggers to faciliate the "certified" diminishment of these ancient intact rainforests, and that the World Bank has failed to enforce the logging moratorium and continues to subsidize national policy and institutions that promote industrial logging of ancient forests. How many WWF and Greenpeace members realize they are supporting industrial logging of the world's last ancient rainforests?

The ultimate aim of Ecological Internet's "End Ancient Forest Logging" campaign is to get the World Bank, other donors and mainstream conservation bureaucracies completely out of the business of supporting industrial ancient forest logging -- and in particular to stop supporting national forestry institutions and policy that perpetuates the industrial logging model. One might expect such reformist clap-trap in the face of decades of failed rainforest policy from the World Bank, that is intent upon ensuring access to natural resources for global economic growth; but sadly WWF and Greenpeace have also undoubtedly become part of the problem. Both Greenpeace and WWF continue to write great reports illustrating the problems, drawn upon for this alert, yet have uncritically, dangerously and wrongly embraced certified, sustainable commercial scaled logging as the solution to the world's rainforest diminishment.

They are wrong, and today is the beginning of a movement to call them on it, and gain commitments to work for an end to industrial logging of ancient forests. WWF's and Greenpeace's embrace of FSC certified logging of ancient rainforests is not conservation, it is prostitution. Let Congo rainforest stakeholders know you demand a future for the Congo that is free of industrial rainforest clearance. And put the World Bank, WWF and Greenpeace on notice that their forest conservation policies are opposed and will be exposed and stopped.


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