Europe Losing Appetite For Palm Oil

EU Targeting Biofuel Applications

The latest European Union plan to ban palm oil has been defeated, but the anti-palm oil forces in Europe have only just begun.

The different lawmaking arms of the EU — the European Commission, Parliament and the Council — recently reached a compromise on the bloc’s revised renewable energy regulations, known as the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Like all EU compromises, it is messy, but with one element of certainty: the proposed ban on palm biofuels has been rejected.

RED is of significance to Indonesia. The regulation effectively subsidizes renewable fuels for transport, including Indonesian palm oil, and has increased demand for Indonesian exports in recent years.

palm oil plantation deforestation
This led to palm oil taking market share from less competitive EU oilseeds, such as rapeseed.  The most recent evidence of this is claims of dumping made by European biofuel producers against Indonesia, which was rejected at the World Trade Organization.

There is furious lobbying around the RED revisions. European farmer and Green groups wanted palm oil banned. This was supported by members of the EU Parliament and several EU governments.

The European Commission knew a ban was unworkable from a trade policy perspective: it opposed the plan. Some EU member states’ governments, pursuing ongoing trade relations with Indonesia and Malaysia, also opposed the ban.

The final compromise juggles the interests of European farmers, the EU’s trade interests, and a general desire to phase out food/feed-based biofuels.

Green parliamentarians hailed it as a victory, stating palm oil was being “phased out” by 2030. This has been widely reported in the media: it is not accurate.

The RED text contains no specific phase-out of palm oil. Palm oil is not even mentioned. The proposed ban on all palm oil biofuels from 2021 has disappeared. Forbes reported that the EU Parliament “surrendered” in the negotiations and backed away from banning palm oil.

deforestation and global warming
Instead, the text says that in 2019 the commission will finalize a methodology to determine which biofuels — and their production processes — can be considered “high risk” in terms of greenhouse gas savings. This will incorporate both indirect land-use change (ILUC) and high carbon stock (HCS).

On paper, all crops — European crops included — will be subject to the same measures.

Any “high-risk” biofuels — imported or European — will have their use frozen at 2019 levels, and the commission will then recommend a phase-out strategy for high-risk biofuels, commencing in 2024 and ending in 2030.

But “high risk” is yet to be determined. The ‘high carbon stock’ criteria may be carried over from the original RED. Schemes such as RSPO, RED and ISCC already comply if that is the case.

deforestation palm oil orangutans
ILUC is the true wildcard here. The ILUC debate has been going on for nearly a decade. The concept has been criticized repeatedly for its lack of a robust methodology.

But it’s not just oil palm growers that dislike ILUC. European farmers — including offshoots of Deutscher Bauernverband (German Farmers’ Association) — have been critical of ILUC. This is because ILUC is one of the main arguments used by the Greens against feed- and food-based biofuels, whether in the EU or elsewhere.

After the European summer, the commission will begin work on defining what “high risk” biofuel feedstock means for purposes of the biofuel policy.

Additionally, Europe is moving to regulate palm oil used for foodstuffs.  As a first step, the European Parliament is considering a motion calling for controls on agricultural imports from developing countries.

Palm oil has been singled out despite being well behind other commodities — such as beef, soybean and maize — in terms of its deforestation footprint. This is to be expected from the European Parliament; a lopsided vote against palm oil is almost certain.

Following that, the EU will finalize the “EU Action Plan” on deforestation. This action plan will seek to introduce a new regulation aimed at curbing palm oil imports. Ideas being floated include a trade agreement and licensing system for palm oil — similar to the VPA-FLEGT model currently used for Indonesian timber product exports. Indonesian officials and business groups have been quick to push the idea of using Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification as the basis of such an agreement.

These types of policies often serve a dual purpose. They protect the domestic industry with a regulatory barrier, and fall in line with the EU’s euro-centric notion of sustainable development.

For nearly a decade, palm oil has been a target for European agriculture, lawmakers and non-government organizations. There is nothing about the revised RED policy that changes this, even though the ban was defeated. Those in the industry need to be ready for the policy battles to continue.

The EU and Palm Oil

deforestation and climate change

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. It supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Land Restoration, Reforestation Can Reverse Degradation

Hunger, Poverty Add To Migration And Conflict

Every year, 12 million hectares of land are degraded because of drought and desertification. The Food and Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations hopes to reverse that trend and return land to agriculture production.

A major EU-funded FAO-programme called Action Against Desertification has paved the way for large-scale land restoration in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Its restoration method could become a vital tool in support of efforts to reverse land degradation through restoration. According to UNCCD, the United Nations body tasked with addressing desertification, the area lost each year to degradation could produce 20 million tons of grain and could have stopped some deforestation in the process. Of course, the restoration effort also can create jobs for local villagers and farmers.

Africa drought and wildlife conservation

Adding to the pressure on fragile ecosystems in Africa’s drylands and on islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific are population growth and climate change.

“However grim this outlook may be, these problems are not insurmountable” said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division at the opening of the executive committee meeting for Action Against Desertification. “Bold action and investments can boost food security, improve livelihoods and help people adapt to climate change,” she added.

“Action Against Desertification has shown that land degradation is not yet irreversible,” said Pietro Nardi of the European Union, the programme’s major sponsor. “This is good news now that efforts to halt land degradation are high on the international agenda,” he added, referring to the upcoming UN review of the sustainable development goals in July.

reforestation and carbon capture

Action Against Desertification, a key partner of Africa’s Great Green Wall initiative, was launched in 2014. So far, it has reached an estimated 500,000 people. By the end of this year, it plans to have planted 35,000 hectares of degraded land.

Central to the success of Action Against Desertification is a method that puts rural communities at the heart of restoration work by focusing on their needs for useful species and preferences in support of their livelihoods.

“We support communities in planting the right species in the right place at the right time,” said Moctar Sacande, who is in charge of the programme. He underlined the importance of upscaling operations in view of the massive need for restoration, explaining that mechanized land preparation is being employed to shift into higher gear.

At the same time, Action Against Desertification also puts a lot of effort into stimulating economic growth. It helps local communities to develop the value chains of non-timber forest products. Some of these products, gum Arabic, honey or tree oils, offer substantial commercial potential. Others, such as fast-growing grasses, are very useful to feed the animals, but can be sold as well.

Groundbreaking results were also achieved in monitoring and evaluation, vital to track progress of activities on the ground. An innovative monitoring system, using FAO’s Collect Earth developed in partnership with Google, allows Action Against Desertification to measure its contribution to achieving land degradation neutrality targets.

Action Against Desertification played a key role in the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in drylands, based on the analysis of over 200 000 sample plots of half a hectare each, which found that forests in drylands are much more extensive than previously assumed. The findings were published in Science magazine in May 2017.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

The global drylands assessment enabled to map the restoration needs and opportunities for Africa’s Great Green Wall for the first time. Its core area is estimated to cover 780 million hectares, more than twice the size of India and home to 232 million people. 166 million hectares of this area are in need of restoration, the assessment concluded.

As a result, it has become clear that the need for land restoration is enormous: in Africa’s Great Green Wall area alone, over 10 million hectares must be restored each year until 2030 to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 15 on land degradation neutrality.

At the same time, efforts are underway to expand the Great Green Wall initiative to other parts of Africa. Several countries have expressed their interest to participate, including Ghana, Cameroon, as well as Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, the latter three within the framework of the Southern Africa Development Community and its (SADC) efforts to combat desertification.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Ecosystems Collapsing In Face Of Climate Change

Millions Of Lives Depend On Ecosystems Under Siege

Some of the world’s most iconic ecosystems are collapsing due to climate change and human encroachment, which, in turn, is contributing to more climate change. Collapse of one ecosystem will contribute to the collapse of the next. As human refugees escape one danger zone, they will contribute to the creation of the next collapse. It’s a very high stakes version of the domino effect. Momentum is the enemy.

The Great Barrier Reef, for example, is under assault from ocean acidification. The Amazon rainforest has been suffering from deforestation for years and now a wicked drought is adding to the momentum of its downfall, while threatening the lives of millions of people downstream. To combat such climate-related threats, we need to stop the encroachment and expedite the healing, according to findings published in the journal Science.

wildlife conservation and deforestation

“We show that managing local pressures can expand the ‘safe operating space’ for these ecosystems. Poor local management makes an ecosystem less tolerant to climate change and erodes its capacity to keep functioning effectively,” the study’s lead author Marten Scheffer, chair of the Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at the Netherlands’ Wageningen University, said in a press release.

The research team examined Spain’s Doñana wetlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. While many ecosystems are indeed important to the environment and to their local people, these ecosystems in particular have a global importance.

Coral reefs have gained a lot of attention recently due to the effect of ocean acidification – the increase in acidic waters due to buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide – that have led to extensive bleaching events. Worse still, studies have shown that ocean acidification is eating away at the structural integrity of these unique marine animals, causing coral to become more susceptible to both predators and disease.

In fact, the Great Barrier Reef’s growth rate has plummeted by 40 percent since the mid-1970s.

But overfishing, nutrient runoff and unprecedented amounts of dredging are exacerbating these climate change-related threats. By eliminating these stressors, the Great Barrier Reef may have a chance in our warming world.

However, like corals reefs, rainforests and wetlands around the world are also under increasing pressure from both climate change and local threats.

Mt. Kilimanjaro deforestation

Such local threats include nutrient runoff from the use of agricultural fertilizers and urban wastewater, which is degrading water quality in the Doñana wetlands in southern Spain. This, in turn, is causing toxic algal blooms that endanger the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

A warming climate could encourage more severe blooms, causing losses of biodiversity, researchers say. This ecosystem is a vital wintering site for waterfowl – hosting over half a million birds – and home to numerous unique invertebrate and plant species.

“Local managers could lessen this risk and therefore boost the wetlands’ climate resilience by reducing nutrient runoff,” explained co-author Andy Green, a professor at the Doñana Biological Station.

To reduce nutrient runoff, he added, managers could reduce fertilizer use, improve water treatment plants, and close illegal wells that are decreasing the flow of clean water to these wetlands.

When it comes to the Amazon rainforest, rising temperatures and severe dry spells, along with deforestation, are major threats to its survival.

This deadly combination could turn the ecosystem into dry, fire-prone and species-poor woodland. The United Nations has pledged to end deforestation completely by 2030, which no doubt would help. But researchers also recommend curtailing canopy damage from logging and speeding up forest regeneration. These management efforts could protect the forest from fire and maintain regional rainfall, helping the Amazon to thrive and better resist climate change.

deforestation and climate change

“Local management options are well understood and not too expensive. So there is really no excuse for countries to let this slip away, especially when it comes to ecosystems that are of vital importance for maintaining global biodiversity,” Scheffer pointed out.

“All three examples play a critical role in maintaining global biodiversity. If these systems collapse,” he added, “it could mean the irreversible extinction of species.”

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Agriculture A Major Contributor To Deforestation, Climate Change

Soil Depletion Releasing Carbon Into Atmosphere

By Ellen Wulfhorst, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

deforestation and climate change

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said. Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified. The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

Read The Full Story About Agriculture and Climate Change.

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

EU Considering Palm-Oil Boycott To Curb Deforestation

Deforestation Driving Climate Change, Extinction

Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, are resisting proposals by European parliamentarians that could limit their access to the second biggest palm oil market after India.

Government ministers from Malaysia and Indonesia, along with some regional palm oil producers, met in Jakarta on April 11 to plan a response to a resolution approved on April 4 by European parliament members concerning palm oil and deforestation.

The parliamentarians requested the EU to “introduce a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market and phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020.”

They hope for an EU-wide ban on biodiesel made from palm oil by 2020, claiming that the expansion of palm oil plantations, mostly in Southeast Asia, is causing “massive forest fires, the drying up of rivers, soil erosion, peatland drainage, the pollution of waterways and overall loss of biodiversity.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar called the EU proposals an “insult,” while the foreign ministry accused the EU of “protectionism” and of ignoring the rights of millions of Indonesian farmers whose main source of income is from small oil palm plots.

The growth in global demand for palm oil, which is used in a wide array of products from cosmetics and fuel to foods such as margarine and chocolate, has resulted in the massive clearing of forests, particularly in Indonesia, over the last 30 years. The slash and burn methods used on Sumatra and Borneo have led to forest and peatland fires that have enveloped Singapore and parts of Malaysia in a smoky haze that has spread as far as southern Thailand.

Images of orphaned baby elephants and orangutans rescued from cleared forests and plantations have spurred vigorous environmental activism and consumer awareness campaigns in recent years. Species such as the Sumatran elephant have been put on endangered lists, with the ensuing bad publicity forcing governments and palm oil companies to sign up for various national and international certification schemes to guarantee that palm oil products are not causing environmental damage.

palm oil and orangutans

But members of the European parliament argue that a single certification scheme is needed. “MEPs note that various voluntary certification schemes promote the sustainable cultivation of palm oil,” but “their standards are open to criticism and are confusing for consumers,” said a European parliament press release issued on April 4.

In response, Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman told reporters in Jakarta that “we cannot let Europe dictate Indonesia’s agriculture. We have our own standard called Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil.”

Mah Siew Keong, the Malaysian plantation industries and commodities minister, said that “Malaysia too already has a national certification system.” He noted that “only palm oil is subjected to certification while similarly produced vegetables oils are not subject to sustainability certification,” asserting, “this is not fair.”

With the Indonesia Oil Palm Producers Association executive director Fadhil Hasan calling on the government to “retaliate,” mentioning wine, aircraft, perfume and pharmaceuticals as imports from Europe that Jakarta could target, the dispute over palm oil could undermine work started in July 2016 by the EU and Indonesia to move toward a free trade agreement, as well as disrupt longer-standing negotiations between the EU and Malaysia on a similar deal.

Indonesia is Southeast Asian’s biggest economy and accounts for almost 40% of the total 620 million population of Southeast Asia. “European companies already provide 1 million jobs here in Indonesia and we hope it can grow,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, during a Nov. 2016 trade mission visit to Jakarta.With tensions over palm oil threatening to undermine free trade negotiations, some European officials sought to play down some of the concerns raised by MEPs.

deforestation and climate change

Jean-Charles Berthonnet, the French ambassador to Indonesia, described the MEP resolution as “unilaterally critical and moralizing” in an opinion article published in the Jakarta Post, though the ambassador agreed that a better certification system is needed.

“Deforestation is a very complex issue and I think we can agree on a number of points. But we need to take a broader look at deforestation because it is not caused only by the palm oil industry,” said Karmenu Vella, the EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

Indeed, one recent agreement suggests that the EU and Indonesia can collaborate on preserving forests. In November 2016, Indonesia and the EU launched a licensing scheme that aimed to stop illegally logged timber from being exported from Indonesia — the world’s third biggest jungle area after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — to Europe, and in turn reduce deforestation across the archipelago. “Indonesia has shown true leadership and now sets a high standard for other countries to emulate,” said Vincent Guerend, the EU ambassador to Indonesia, when the initiative was launched.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

But both sides will now have to come to terms over palm oil. The April 11 meeting of palm oil growers in Jakarta was convened to plan a negotiating strategy ahead of a possible meeting with European officials in May to discuss the proposed restrictions on palm oil.

“We will do whatever we can to convince the European parliament and European countries not to implement it,” Darmin Nasution, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for economic affairs, told reporters. “We will negotiate in full force,” he added.

The European parliamentarians also accused the palm oil companies of not living up to their claims that their products are environmentally friendly. “Some companies trading in palm oil are failing to prove beyond doubt that the palm oil in their supply chain is not linked to deforestation, peatland drainage or environmental pollution, and to demonstrate that it has been produced with full respect for fundamental human rights and adequate social standards,” the MEPs stated.

Anita Neville, vice president of corporate communications and sustainability relations at Golden Agri-Resources, a Singapore-based palm oil company that manages 480,000 hectares of Indonesian palm oil plantations, said that producers hoped that the EU would not back away from the use of palm oil. “If your motivation is to tackle deforestation and poverty, you need to stay in the game and demand sustainable palm oil,” she said.

Malaysian palm oil producers Sime Darby and IOI announced in March they had joined the year-old Fire Free Alliance, which “focuses on fire prevention through community engagement.” It includes environmental groups and major forestry and agriculture companies such as pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International and major palm oil players Musim Mas Group and Wilmar International.

deforestation climate change

The Indonesian government is backing the FFA, which so far supervises activity in just 200 villages covering roughly 1.5 million hectares of land. This amounts to just over a quarter of what the Indonesian government estimates are 731 villages in seven of Indonesia’s 34 provinces where slash and burn clearances are undertaken.

Among those most affected by plantation expansion and deforestation in Indonesia is the country’s indigenous population, which is seeking more rights over traditional lands in many places that overlap with some of the country’s forests and plantations.

But granting such rights would likely make it more difficult to conduct agribusiness on up 8 million hectares of land claimed by indigenous peoples. This is seen as one reason why Indonesian President Joko Widodo belatedly cancelled a scheduled appearance at a March congress of indigenous leaders in northern Sumatra.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the newly elected head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), said she was not surprised at the president’s reluctance to attend the event. But she added, “the problem is with the ministry of environment and forestry, they are the ones who are claiming our land as state land.”

Her group contends that giving indigenous groups legal rights to their land is the best way to ensure that forest ecologies are preserved. Rukmini P. Toheke, a prominent activist for indigenous peoples from Palu in central Sulawesi, said: “For us the forest is ‘katu vua,’ or life itself.” She added: “If we destroy the forests, we destroy our own lives.”

Deforestation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. We have projects ready across Africa now. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

International Day Of Forests Promotes Conservation

Deforestation Threatens Biodiversity

Today is the International Day of Forests. Deforestation is a major contributor to global warming, wildlife extinction, droughts and other threats to life as we know it.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, and home to more than 80 percent of all known terrestrial species of animals and plants. They play a vital role in storing water, regulating climate, preserving soils and nurturing biodiversity, and provide important economic and social services.

On this UN day that is dedicated for forests, CITES highlights its commitment to help countries manage forests more sustainably. Through strictly regulating international trade in certain timber and non-timber forest products to ensure legality, sustainability and traceability, CITES is contributing towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal #15 as it relates to the sustainably managed forests and halting biodiversity loss.

deforestation and climate change

Recent years have witnessed a major development in the use of the Convention with Parties deciding to include many commercially valuable trees in the CITES Appendices. While only 18 tree species were listed in the CITES Appendices in 1975 when the Convention came into effect, CoP17 alone (held in Johannesburg, September/October 2017) brought over 300 new timber species, namely all Dalbergia rosewood and palisander species found across the world  under CITES trade controls. Today, more than 900 tree species are protected under CITES, including some of the world’s most economically valuable trees.

Legal international trade in timber is worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Thanks to CITES trade regulations, CITES Management Authorities establish the veracity of the legal origins of listed species before they enter international trade, and CITES Scientific Authorities advise on the sustainable nature of the harvest and exports. Customs officials at border crossings of source, transit and destination States across the globe will verify CITES permits for all such international shipments.

deforestation and jaguar conservation

“The decisions taken to bring so many new tree species under the CITES trade control regime reflect the growing confidence that Parties have in CITES in helping them manage these valuable resources more sustainably, and the determination to ensure the legality of such timbers in trade,” said CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon.

CITES works in partnership with other organizations to enhance sustainable forest management and timber trade practices. The successful long-term collaboration between CITES and ITTO, for example, has contributed greatly towards reducing biodiversity loss, fostering sustainable development and helping poverty eradication by enabling biodiversity-rich countries to better manage their natural forest resources.

Beneficiary countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas have been given support to sustainably harvest and trade in CITES listed tree species, which is good for people and wildlife, and contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal #15:

“Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.”

palm oil and orangutans

“Through our collective efforts we are ensuring that wild plants, and the animals that depend upon them, will be protected for this generation and the generations to come. Effectively regulating trade in forest products also has great benefits for people by ensuring sustainable livelihoods, and protecting social and cultural assets. Wildlife-based industries, including tourism, can bring significant benefits for some national economies and be a major generator of local jobs and foreign exchange” concluded Scanlon.

Deforestation News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information 

Together, we can stop deforestation and preserve biodiversity.

Portland Defending Trees Like Treasure

Urban Forests Provide Benefits To Citizens, Wildlife, Planet

Property owners in Portland need to think twice before chopping down trees. A new city tree code took effect in January. It brings new protections to trees on both public and private property, along with stricter regulations and tough penalties for violators.

It takes away a lot of the confusion about what you can do with trees, says Portland landscape contractor Greg Schifsky. “It also sends a message that we treasure our trees.”

reforestation and carbon capture

Schifsky was part of a core group of neighborhood activists who started lobbying the city back in 2005 to 2006 to improve its jumbled tree-cutting regulations. For a city that prided itself on its greenery, a lot of important trees kept disappearing, he says, “and a lot of them were being taken down for not very good reasons.”

Developers also were frustrated, because patchwork tree regulations were embedded in many parts of the city code. Regulations were inconsistent and administered by seven different city bureaus, which in Portland can seem like seven different local governments.

“The department of transportation would tell you to take out a trees and the planning department would say ‘No, we don’t want you to do that,’ ” says Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.


After several years of citizen pressure, stakeholder meetings and public hearings, the City Council adopted a new tree code back in 2011. But implementation kept getting delayed — until now. Though some homebuilders still don’t see why a city tree code is necessary, “as tree codes go, I think it’s a pretty fair tree code,” Wood says.

Permits Needed To Cut Urban Trees In Portland

Probably the biggest shock will come from homeowners, he predicts, who aren’t accustomed to being told they can’t cut down trees on their property. One-third of all the trees in the city are on single-family lots, and most of those previously were unregulated.

“The old tree code was not consistent and as fair as it could be,” says Meryl Redisch, who worked closely on the tree code as a member of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. It had very different treatment for trees in development situations and those that aren’t, Redisch says.

deforestation and global warming

The new code seeks to change that, but it may make some people unhappy. From now on, residents will need to apply for a $25 city permit before taking down any tree on their property with a diameter of 12 inches or greater, measured 4.5 feet off the ground. They will have the right to remove up to four trees per year from their yard if the trees have a diameter of 20 inches or less — though that will require permits. Residents may be required to plant a higher number of replacement trees elsewhere, so the city doesn’t see its overall tree canopy reduced.

Permits also are required before pruning tiny branches off street trees with diameters of a quarter-inch or greater. Generally, the city will only allow full removal of street trees on the public right of way if they’re dead, dying or dangerous. Residents won’t be able to take them down just because they produce a lot of leaves, make too much shade, or obstruct views.

“A big part of it is going to be education,” Redisch says. City arborists will seek to counsel residents who might otherwise be too hasty about removing trees from their property, she says. Neighbors will be notified of some tree-cutting permit applications, giving them a greater voice in protecting iconic trees in a neighborhood.

The message from the new code is that saving big trees has benefits that extend far beyond an individual homeowner, applying to future generations on that property, neighbors and the city as a whole.

The Benefits Of Saving Trees Are Numerous

“What we get are air-quality improvements, shade, storm water benefits, wildlife habitat, beauty, enjoyment — those are the easy ones,” says Redisch, the recently retired executive director of the Audubon Society of Portland.

Trees also have been shown to reduce asthma, make people calmer and absorb pollutants. Perhaps most importantly, they counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

A greater tree canopy over Portland also can help lower the “urban heat island” effect, which makes the city much hotter than surrounding areas because of the loss of tree canopy here and preponderance of roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops that retain the sun’s rays. That’s expected to become more significant as the climate warms.

The new tree code will preserve more trees on developable land, says Jeff Fish, a homebuilder who was involved in framing the regulations. But the code is more flexible in some cases than before, he says, an acknowledgement that meeting the city’s goals of boosting density means building more homes.

“We have to take some trees down to build a house,” Fish says. If the ordinance makes it much harder to do infill and other development in the city, it will cause more sprawl — and greater tree removal — on land outside the urban growth boundary, he says.

But Fish and others still wonder how well the advice of stakeholders and citizens gets put in practice.

“We’ll find out as we implement this in January how good the code-writers wrote the code to make this work,” he says.

Contrary to stereotypes, homebuilders often recognize the merits of preserving trees.

“A tree can add $2,500 worth of value or more” to a home on the market, Fish says, “so most of us don’t take down any more trees than we have to.”

It also can cost them up to $2,000 to $4,000 to chop down and remove a large Douglas fir.

By design, the new tree code should help meet the city’s goal of having one-third of its land area covered with tree canopy. The city estimates the new code will preserve one to two acres of tree canopy on private property per year and result in the planting of six to 30 acres of new tree canopy each year.

On development lands, the code is projected to preserve 44 acres to 88 acres of tree canopy a year, and result in the planting of 48 acres to 96 acres a year. Some of that is because the old standards only applied to single-family developments, while the new tree-cutting restrictions apply to all developable land. The city also is setting tree-density requirements; developers who don’t meet those can put money into a city tree-planting fund.

City officials delayed implementation of the new code until they could afford seven new city staff members to enforce it. As a result, the city is promising improved customer service. The Bureau of Development Services and Portland Parks & Recreation will administer the ordinance, down from seven bureaus before. Two staff members will be stationed at the city Permit Center downtown to answer questions and issue permits. A new hotline and website will serve as a clearinghouse for information about the new rules.

And, not surprising, stiff new fines will be imposed for those who don’t obey the new rules, including $1,000 for those who fail to get permits. The city has promised to go easy on enforcement in the early days at least, until Portlanders learn about their new responsibilities. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees both bureaus managing the program, has appointed a citizen oversight committee. That group, which includes Fish, will monitor how well the tree code is working out, and suggest any needed changes. It will make regular reports to the Urban Forestry Commission, now led by Redisch.

Urban Forestry News via

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Greenwashing Sustainable Palm Oil

Editor’s Note: Although it is possible to produce most things in a sustainable way, it’s not possible to grow large volumes of palm oil in a truly sustainable way–one that protects and promotes biodiversity. Most of these plantations are consuming a massive footprint in what used to be our tropical rain forests. In most cases, owners of the palm oil plantation are responsible for slashing and burning the land to clear large swaths for palm oil production. If not, they rely on a shell game–smoke and mirrors–to hide the connection to the deforestation. Endangered species, including tigers, orangutans and elephants are displaced, if not killed in the chaos.

palm oil plantation deforestation

These palm oil plantations proceed to disrupt entire ecosystems because they are based on the concept of monoculture versus biodiversity. Even a so-called “sustainable” plantation often sits on thousands of acres of former wildlife habitat within a critical watershed. If those animals can’t survive elsewhere, they are not welcome to return to their native habitat as they search for food and water. Shame on any company or consumer that calls this displacement and destruction a “sustainable” practice. These are crimes against nature in the name of junk food and profit maximization. Just say no to RSPO until,they take responsibility for the survival of endangered species in their native habitat. We have a model for sustainable pilot plans. We urge RSPO and other stakeholders to work with us on many fronts. Sustainability is possible.

Ecosystem Destruction Not Sustainable

Palm oil has become one of the world’s most controversial commodities, used to make for everything from shampoo to biodiesel to sugar candies. The World Wildlife Fund says it is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, comprising 65 percent of all vegetable oil traded internationally.

Yet there are only a few areas in the world with the right growing conditions for the crop. Some 85 percent of international production is in Malaysia and Indonesia, but Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region also boasts the right growing conditions and is increasingly drawing interest as a place to produce the commodity.

deforestation and climate change

Earlier this month, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce sat down with INGOs and palm oil industry leaders to discuss expanding the sector in line with sustainable, international standards.

It is possible to create a large-scale palm oil sector that “is legal, environmentally appropriate, socially acceptable and profitable”, said Darrell Weber, secretary general of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry group, during his keynote speech at the event.

He recommended the government adopt his organization’s guidelines as they look to expand their plantations in Tanintharyi region.

However, some environmentalists say that the idea of sustainable palm oil plantations, both socially and ecologically, is “a farce”. Pointing to examples both in Myanmar and across Southeast Asia, they argue that any profit from the plantations is eventually offset by damage to local communities.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

“There’s a lot of talk about a sustainable model, but it’s just a myth,” said U Win Myo Thu, founder of the environmental NGO Ecodev. “In the long run there will always be more harmful effects.”

As U Win Myo Thu and several other experts pointed out, clearing large swaths of tropical forest – even forests degraded by logging – to produce a single crop inevitably causes massive drops in biodiversity, with attendant ecological problems quick to follow.

In Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil production has been directly linked to record levels of air pollution and destroying the habitats of endangered species like the orangutan.

“What’s happening now in Myanmar is that a lot of companies are coming in and they’re basically copying the same system that’s been going around Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Oliver Pye, a professor of Southeast Asian Studies on the University of Bonn.

Under this system, according to Mr Pye, large corporations are free to expand and “[they] don’t have to pay the environmental costs they incur”.

In addition, he claimed that in both nations, the RSPO has stood in the way of stronger regulations from the national government. The RSPO could not be reached for comment last week.

Beyond ecology, experts also say that expanding Myanmar’s palm oil sector would likely expand the corruption that has defined the industry for decades.

Speaking to The Myanmar Times last week, Kevin Woods, a Yangon-based researcher with the INGO Forest Trends, said that much of the land awarded to large corporations for palm oil plantations in Tanintharyi were in fact taken from civilians during the Tatmadaw’s offensive against the KNU in the 1990s.

deforestation and climate change

“This dramatic history clearly indicates that any concept of ‘sustainability’ of oil palm in Tanintharyi is a farce, as the land from which oil palm is being cultivated was stolen by the military and led to thousands being forcibly resettled under duress without any compensation,” he said.

However, other environmentalists stand by both the RSPO and the idea of sustainable palm oil.

“The social and environmental impacts of the plantation sector, particularly palm oil, have drawn criticism across Southeast Asia,” said Frank Momberg, the program director of Flora and Fauna International’s Myanmar office, which helped organise the meeting.“The introduction and promotion of sustainable practices in plantation development can help maximize economic, social and environmental benefits.”

Speaking to The Myanmar Times last week, Mr. Momberg said that that FFI had identified forests in Tanintharyi that could be converted to palm plantations with minimal damage to the surrounding environment, and that if local communities are properly consulted during construction “the development of sustainable palm oil can contribute to the reduction of social conflicts.”

palm oil and orangutans

U Zaw Win, deputy director-general of the Forests Department, said that any expansion of palm plantations would indeed be aligned with sustainable practices outlined by the RSPO, and would only come after a full consultation with local communities and other stakeholders.

On this point at least, U Win Myo Thu agreed with the government’s stance. “We must create informed decision-making for local communities, find out the effects and tell the story to the public and let the public make a choice – because every approach may have its advantages and disadvantages.”


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Pope Condemns Rainforest Destruction

Religion Must Defend Mother Nature

Pope Francis has underlined his support for the development of a more sustainable global economy, criticizing the exploitation of nature, including the destruction of rainforests in South America, in his latest appeal against environmental degradation.

Speaking in Italy on Saturday, the Argentine Pope said destruction of forests was a “sin of modern times” and called for more effort to drive sustainable development.

Pope Francis condemns deforestation

“This is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” he said at a speech on work and industry. “To convert ourselves to a kind of development that respects creation. “When I look at America, also my own homeland (South America), so many forests, all cut, that have become land… that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her.”

Pope Francis took his name from Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, and has made a number of appeals for improved environmental protection since he took the position as head of the Catholic Church last year.

deforestation and climate change

He is also preparing an encyclical on the environment and climate change, indicating that it has become a top priority for the Vatican.

Earlier this year, Christiana Figueres, United Nations climate change secretariat chief, urged faith leaders to show greater support for action on climate change, including divesting from fossil fuel investments.

Deforestation has caused about 20 percent of the rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The rise in greenhouse gases, both human caused and natural, is contributing to unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which contributes to climate change, extreme weather and threats to life as we know it.

Deforestation also cripples our planet’s capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere, while contributing to the loss of endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants and many others. Reforestation is a critical part of the solution to many of our most pressing sustainability challenges.

Forests are critical to the way Earth functions. They lock up vast amounts of carbon and release oxygen. They influence rainfall, filter fresh water and prevent flooding and soil erosion. They produce wild foods, fuelwood and medicines for the people that live in and around them. They are storehouses of potential future crop varieties and genetic materials with untapped healing qualities. Wood and other fibre grown in forests can be used as a renewable fuel or as raw material for paper, packaging, furniture or housing. While the pressures on forests vary across regions, the biggest cause of deforestation is expanding agriculture – including commercial livestock and major crops such as palm oil and soy.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

Africa’s Future In Sustainable Agriculture, Agroforestry

Most Africans Rely On Farming

By Kanayo F. NwanzePresident, International Fund for Agricultural Development

Judging from the daily outpouring of commentary, opinions and reports, you would think that there were two African continents. One of them is the new land of opportunity, with seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, offering limitless possibilities to investors. There is, however, this other image: a starving and hopeless continent, hungry and poor, corrupt and prey to foreign exploiters.

sustainable agriculture Uganda

As Africans, we are tired of caricatures. But we are also tired of waiting. Waiting to be led toward the one Africa we all want — the Africa that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realize our full potential. It is within our grasp.

As a scientist, I am always interested in facts. Africa is a land rich in resources, which has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates on the planet. It is home to 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. And it has seen foreign direct investment triple over the past decade.

As the head of an institution whose business is investing in rural people, I know that you also need vision and imagination. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development we have banked on the poorest, most marginalized people in the world, and over and over again these investments have paid off. For people, for communities, for societies. And more than half of the people we invest in are Africans.

More than 10 years have passed since the Maputo Declaration, in which you, as African leaders, committed to allocating at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development — key sectors in the drive to cut poverty, build inclusive growth and strengthen food security and nutrition.

Mountain gorilla photography award

Today, just seven countries have fulfilled the Maputo commitment consistently, while some others have made steps in the right direction. Ten years is a long time to wait. In less time, I have seen projects turn desert into farmland.

In just a few days in Malabo at the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit, I will join those of you, African leaders, who will gather to discuss this year’s focus of agriculture and food security. This is my call: Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people.

Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful. If we don’t act now, by 2030 Africa will account for 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?

The AU declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security. And this is the year we look beyond the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals to a post-2015 world with new goals and targets to reach. I hope that this means that we will be dedicating ourselves fully to making agriculture a priority. GDP growth due to agriculture has been estimated to be five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 11 times. Ironically, it is countries that lack lucrative extractive industries and that have had to invest in agriculture who have found out what is now an open secret: agriculture not only improves food security but creates wealth. Small family farmers in some parts of our continent contribute as much as 80 percent of food production. Investing in poor rural people is both good economics and good ethics.

A full 60 percent of our people depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s not pity and handouts that they need. It’s access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology, and policies that favor small farms and make it easier for them to do business. A thriving small farm sector helps rural areas retain the young people who would otherwise be driven to migrate to overcrowded cities where they face an uncertain future. Investing in agriculture reinforces not only food security, but security in general.

In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical — I have often said that declarations don’t feed people.


Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80 percent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms. For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20 percent of the world’s food. The average African farm, however, is performing at only about 40 percent of its potential. Simple technologies — such as improved seeds, irrigation and fertilizer — could triple productivity, triggering transformational growth in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50 percent in Africa. Rural areas also need the right investments in infrastructure — roads, energy, storage facilities, social and financial services — and enabling policies backed by appropriate governance structures that ensure inclusiveness.

If we look at the countries that have met the Maputo commitment, we see that investing in agriculture works. Given that agriculture has become lucrative for private investors, and about 60 percent of the planet’s available uncultivated agricultural land is in Africa, there is no mystery why we hear about so-called ‘land grabs’. Opportunity draws foreign investors. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment. But it has to be managed, to the benefit of all.

reforestation and climate change

What is a mystery is why, with such a vast potential and a young population just waiting for a reason to seize it, our African leaders do not announce that they will redouble their efforts to drive an inclusive rural transformation, with concrete commitments, that will make Maputo a reality. I hope that after the Malabo meeting, that will be a mystery no longer.

African economies have grown impressively. But it is time to stop focussing on GDP figures and instead focus on people. The majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, and the neglect of that sector must stop if we really want to realize the healthy, peaceful and food secure Africa that we know can be. It is not a dream; it is a responsibility.


climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.

Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information