Press Release / Oct. 9, 2009

EU Blocks Protection of Natural Forests at Bangkok Climate Talks

Bali hopes to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in jeopardy

Bangkok - REDD negotiations ended explosively Thursday when, despite support from some 20 countries, the European Union blocked language to prevent conversion of natural forests to plantations. Without the safeguard, industrial-scale logging and replacement of tropical forests with pulp or palm oil plantations could be funded by money intended to help developing countries reduce the 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland destruction.

The proposed provision for "...safeguards against the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations" vanished from negotiating text released Thursday morning.  At the final REDD negotiating session Thursday afternoon, Brazil, India, other G-77 parties, and Mexico, Switzerland and Norway strongly requested that the safeguard be reinstated in text to be taken up at the Barcelona talks, 2-6 November.

The EU (chaired by Sweden), supported by the Democratic Republic of the Congo speaking for Cameroon, Equitorial Guinea, and the Republic of the Congo, effectively refused the reinstatement.  Many developed countries, including the U. S., were silent on the safeguard, but no other developed country blocked it.

"The EU position is a disgrace," said Sean Cadman of The Wilderness Society.  "If at its core REDD is not about funding the protection of intact natural forests, everyone needs to ask what on Earth we are doing here. We cannot possibly prevent dangerous climate change without these forests. "

The 2007 Bali Action Plan called for: "Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries...," known as REDD.

"There is little evidence that industrial logging has resulted in development opportunities for forest-rich nations," said Laura Furones of Global Witness.  "Most countries who will benefit from REDD have poor legal frameworks and weak enforcement, so REDD without safeguards will mean revenue lining the pockets of loggers and the corrupt political elite."

Several countries including the Philippines and Bolivia sought to retain reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that would ensure collective rights to land and other resources.

"Rainforests are not empty areas of carbon sticks, they are home to hundreds of millions of indigenous and forest dependent peoples who have established rights secured through various international agreements and standards," said Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.  "Without a guarantee to ensure their rights and their full and effective participation, REDD will do them more harm than good."

Countries also continue to negotiate a text that no longer includes any recognition of the need to address the drivers of forest loss. "Do we actually expect to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation when the same countries funding REDD are buying illegal timber and palm oil in no-questions-asked markets?" said Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Most REDD treaty issues have yet to be discussed with five negotiating days until Copenhagen. But without forest protection as a key priority, hopes raised in Bali to protect the world's natural forests will be lost.

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Contact: Don Lehr + 66 08 255 455 829, + 1 917 304 4058, [email protected]

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The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) is an alliance of environment and social NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere, in an equitable and transparent way that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. ECA comprises Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Foundation Norway, The Rainforest Foundation U.K., Wetlands International and The Wilderness Society.