France on the barricade against deforestation

France has just adopted a new national strategy to restrict the import of forest-related products from areas that struggle with deforestation. Contrary to the more positive trends in Europe, the global forest area has decreased by 129 million hectares between 1990 and 2015, according to FAO data. This corresponds to twice the surface of France.

The strategy focuses on three main topics and three regions. The first and biggest problem is the cattle ranching and large-scale soy production in parts of Latin America, leading to vast deforested areas. The import of soy from that region to Europe represents 60% of the import with a high deforestation risk. The main issue in South-East Asia is the replacement of tropical rain forest by unsustainably managed oil palm plantations, accounting for 12% of the high-risk imported goods. Finally, the challenge facing West-Africa is cocoa production, which represents 8% of the problematic import.

These three goods together account for 80% of the deforestation-related import to the EU. The battle against illegally logged timber, thanks to initiatives such as the EUTR, FLEGT, REDD+ and GTTN, is in full swing. We should however not forget that the majority of global deforestation is caused by other consumable goods.

The strategy comprises 17 planned, built around bilateral cooperation, developing road maps and restricting imports from regions at risk of deforestation. The full strategy can be consulted here (in French).



Palm oil plantation (photo by Tim Cadman)

Governing the forests: how fiscal instruments can act as a (dis)incentive to reducing emissions

In recent years, the concept of ‘governance’ rather than ‘government’ has become a popular term for describing the interactions between stakeholders in the sustainable development policy arena. In this context, especially in the arena of forest management, it is used to describe the structures and processes that steer, or co-ordinate the relations between multi-stakeholders (government, business, civil society). Usually, governance refers to human actors, but there are other forces that exercise influence over how forests are managed. One of the most important of all these, is that most essential resource: money. This brief report outlines the role that public finance, and most importantly the fiscal instruments developed by governments, can have a considerable influence over the fate of the world’s forests.

Research undertaken by the author in 2016-2017 investigated the extent to which fiscal incentives encouraged, or discouraged, private sector involvement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative known as REDD+ (“Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”).

In Indonesia, REDD+ has been recognized as a potentially significant source of revenue, while at the same time providing an important incentive to contribute to reductions in global deforestation. However, in a series of interviews and surveys, forest-based business stakeholders identified a number of issues impacting on their ability to undertake activities that would lead to reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and emissions.

Environment vs. economy: Mapping the forest environmental frontier

To some, the forests mean combatting illegal logging and associated trade, avoiding deforestation and degradation, conserving biodiversity and protecting wilderness.

To others, the forests mean timber as a renewable raw material for uses such as construction and bioenergy, forest-based climate change adaptation and mitigation and transitioning toward a forest-based bioeconomy.