June 24, 2010
Currently, the UN definition of 'forest' doesn't designate between a natural forest ecosystem and a monoculture plantation, such as palm oil or pulp and paper. In addition, the definition allows degraded or partially-logged forests to still be considered 'forest' so long as they have the requisite canopy cover.
Calling the definition a "serious loophole", ATBC recommends the UN "clarify natural forest definitions on a biome basis (such as 'cool-temperate', 'wet tropical', and 'peat-swamp forest') to reflect the wide-ranging differences in carbon and biodiversity values of these different biomes, while clearly distinguishing between native forests and those dominated by tree monocultures and non-native species."
The resolution points out that if the definition remains unchanged, nations could take advantage of it in REDD programs by claiming carbon funds for monoculture plantations or partially-logged forests, landscapes which have emitted significant greenhouse gases due to forest clearing and suffered a loss in biodiversity.
The organization "strongly recommends that developing and developed nations immediately implement these new forest definitions to ensure that they are incorporated in ongoing and future REDD negotiations."
ATBC is the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests with thousands of members spanning over 100 nations.
ATBC argues that this palm oil plantation (beginning with seedlings) in Sumatra should not be considered a 'forest' since it is a monoculture made up of non-native species. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler .
Conflicting signals out of Indonesia on whether palm oil plantations will be classified as forests
(02/23/2010) Indonesia will not allow the conversion of natural forest for oil palm plantations, claimed the country's Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in comments reported by the Jakarta Post.
Commodity trade and urbanization, rather than rural poverty, drive deforestation
(02/07/2010) Deforestation is increasingly correlated to urban population growth and trade rather than rural poverty, suggesting that measures proposed to reduce deforestation will be ineffective if they fail to address demand for commodities produced on forest lands, argues a new paper published in Nature GeoScience.
Forest conservation in U.S. climate policy: an interview with Jeff Horowitz
(02/05/2010) The Copenhagen Accord signed in December is widely seen as a disappointment. The Accord set no binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions targets and did not even commitment to a legally binding treaty in the future. Serious work is needed to bring the process back on track. But some progress was made. Countries agreed on international monitoring of emissions (a point of conflict between China and the United States) and funding (rich countries pledged $3 billion a year for the next three years and up to $100 billion a year by 2020) for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Furthermore, there were gains for the REDD mechanism, a U.N.-backed plan to compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.