ITTO has failed to end tropical forest destruction says Greenpeace
ITTO has failed to end tropical forest destruction says Greenpeace
Greenpeace news release
May 7, 2007
Note: The objectivity of this news release has been called into question.
Greenpeace activists today abseiled from the top of the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Port Moresby, where delegates were gathering for the start of the 42nd International Tropical Timber Organization’s (ITTO) committee meeting, and unfurled a banner which read “ITTO Stop Forest Destruction”.
Dutch climber Erik Birkhoff said, “Greenpeace wants the ITTO to do more to stop forest destruction in the world’s tropical forests.”
The protection of large expanses of rainforest has become a global issue and was identified by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) last week as one of the most cost-effective ways to mitigate against climate change.
Greenpeace is highlighting the issue of tropical forest destruction as representatives from governments meet at the 42nd ITTO meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, a country with serious illegal and destructive logging issues, to challenge the ITTO’s members to protect rather than trade away the planet’s last ancient forests.
A diagnostic report on PNG by the ITTO concluded that the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) is doing nothing on ensuring sustainable forest management and is focussed “almost exclusively on exploitation of the forest resource for the primary financial benefit of the national government.”
“Greenpeace wants the ITTO to do more to stop forest destruction in PNG,” said Sam Moko, Greenpeace PNG forest campaigner and climber. “Our Government has done nothing to protect our forests. They and the forest industry are more interested in short term financial gain rather than thinking about the future for our children.”
The ITTO was formed to find a balance between tropical forest conservation and sustainable management, use and trade of tropical forest resources. However the world’s tropical forests, including the Amazon, Congo and the Paradise Forests of Asia Pacific continue to be logged at alarming rates.
In 1990, the ITTO set a goal, “Objective 2000”, to ensure that the trade in tropical timber comes from sustainably managed forests by 2000. As of June 2006, according to the ITTO’s own assessment, less than 5 per cent of tropical forests were under sustainable management.
“By its own admission the ITTO is failing, in the 20 years it has been operating forest degradation and loss due to logging has accelerated in ITTO member countries rather than being brought under control,” said Greenpeace New Zealand Forest Campaigner Grant Rosoman. “This is a spectacular failure and points to the underlying aim of the ITTO members — the continued exploitation of forests for the trade in tropical timber.”
Tropical forests are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and are home to millions of people who rely on them for their subsistence and survival. They are also an essential carbon reservoir and their continued destruction is contributing to climate change. Up to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical forest clearance. Since the ITTO announced its “Objective 2000” the world’s tropical forests have come under increased pressure from illegal and destructive logging as well as massive clearance for agricultural crops such as soya and oil palm.
Sixty per cent of PNG’s large intact ancient forests have already been destroyed and Greenpeace estimates that over 90 per cent of logging in PNG is illegal. Between August 2000 and August 2005 the Amazon lost 12.8 million hectares of forest. Indonesia was last week confirmed as a Guinness World Record holder for destroying its forests at the fastest rate and the Democratic Republic of Congo risks losing up to 40 per cent of its forests by 2050.
“Unless something is done now to stop wholesale forest destruction there may be nothing left to save. Instead of more talk the ITTO’s members need to take action to protect the world’s last ancient forests,” said Mr Rosoman. “We are calling on governments of forest countries to immediately implement moratoria on the expansion of industrial logging and set up a network of protected forest areas. Governments of market countries must implement legislation to ensure that their markets are not trading in illegal and destructive timber products.”
Response from Tim Curtin, an Australian economist who has worked with the PNG government and World Bank on logging issues
I am disturbed by [Greepeace’s] claims that 60% of forests in Papua New Guinea have already been “destroyed” and that “90% of logging in PNG is ‘illegal'”. Neither statement is true: in fact less than 10% of the gross forest area (of 330,650 sq.km) has been logged over, and according to the World Bank instigated Review of 2003 and SGS which has been auditing all log exports since 1993, all currently licensed logging operations are compliant with the Forests Act 1991 (as amended in accordance with World Bank requirements).
Please refer to my paper “What constitutes illegal logging” [.doc]
Let me say I find your site very useful, but one word of caution: your data showing rapid reductions in forest cover in PNG, with “primary forest cover” in 2005 down to 25 million hectares, is incorrect: export logging in PNG is not done on a clear fell basis. For example, the RH operation at Wawoi Guavi has an area of 300,000 ha which they have logged at a mere 16 m3 per hectare since 1990 (about 8 trees p.a. at 50dbh out of up to 800 trees per ha.) and the total area is still forest,as you can see from the air (as I did last month). Note that the state forests of Tasmania have supported logging at 100 m3 per ha. over 17 years also,from their 770,000 ha., with no net loss whatsoever in the total area under canopy. (see www.forestrytas.com.au)
The same applies to to the other main PNG export logging operations at Vanimo, Stettin Bay, and Open Bay, which have been in operation for at least 30 years – selective logging is based on no net reduction in the forest. The Jant woodchip operation at Gogol did involve clear fell but is now plantation-based, and also still in operation after 30 years or so. If your data were correct which imply that their total licensed areas are logged out as per Greenpeace, none of these major operators would still be in business, as they have had little if any increases in their licensed areas. RH applied for but have been refused an extension to their Wawoi area, yet have persisted in their major investments in downstream processing, sawn at Kamusie, veneer and now plywood at Panakawa; if they had logged out as your data imply, their mills would be idle, I assure you they are not, but log exports from Wawoi-Guavi are now less than the log feed to these mills, which employ around 1500 directly, and over 2,000 in total (including logging and barging). RH have in fact invested at least US$100 million on mills (the veneer plant is 300 metres long), wharves, housing for 1500 workers, schools and clinics, etc for these operations – not smart if the trees have already gone according to Greenpeace! As the primary forest is still there, there has also been no net loss of biodiversity or of carbon – sawn logs, veneer and plywood all retain carbon indefinitely (Australia requires a minimum life of 50 years on the plywood it imports from PNG’s Bulolo mill).
Greenpeace has its own agenda.
Response from mongabay.com
With regard to my 25M hectare figure, this comes from the FAO, which says it gets the numbers from the PGN forestry department. By their definition “primary forest” apparently does not include logged forest, even if the canopy is intact. Please note that the total forest area is listed at 29.4M ha. Again this comes from FAO.
Response from Tim Curtin
- Unfortunately the PNG Forest Authority was until recently dominated by World Bank appointees, namely Jim Douglas, Peter McRae, and Andrew Bond, Australians who are known to stop at nothing to prevent PNG from competing with Australian forest products (for example Bond is now with the Australian government’s aid agency AusAid; the government as my paper points out, makes no bones about “bringing down the axe” on all PNG logging (they are staging a new attack on PNG on 29th May, see forwarded email from their DAFF). Selective logging of primary forest does NOT turn it into secondary (i.e replanted) forest.
- The basic inventory work underlying PNG’s Forestry Act and its licensing system was led by John McAlpine. This was based on satellite imagery, and is reported in J. McAlpine and J. Quigley, Forest Resources of Papua New Guinea: summary statistics from the forest inventory mapping (FIM) system, September 1998 (Coffey MPW Pty Ltd for AusAid and the PNG National Forest Service).
This report has the following Table
Gross Forest Area (1975) 330, 650 sq. km Logged 1975-1996 and regenerating: 19,850 Logged 1975-96 & converted to land use 3,550 Other forest clearing (for agric. etc) 9,600
The net in 1996 of 1-3-4 was 317,500; regenerating remains part of the forest area.
Reductions from the 1996 level clearly owe more to land conversion than to logging per se.
Colin Filer has documented in several books how the World Bank was induced by its alliance with WWF to wage war on forestry in PNG (e.g. Colin Filer, with Navroz Dubash and Kilyali Kalit, The Thin Green Line: World Bank leverage and forest policy reform in Papua New Guinea, NRI and ANU, 2000).
Response from Colin Filer
- Peter McCrea is not an Australian, he is a New Zealander.
- Andrew Bond is not currently employed by AusAID, but is minding his own farm on the NSW coast. He wrote the forestry section of AusAID’s book Pacific 2020 (May 2006).
- John McAlpine’s definition of secondary forest is forest which shows satellite-visible evidence of human disturbance, and that disturbance could certainly include selective logging as well as subsistence gardening and other activities.
Response from Tim Curtin
The latest data for the value of PNG’s log exports is the SGS figure of US$170 million in 2006; to this should be added a further US$32.15 million for the value of processed exports in 2005, probably similar in 2006, for a likely total in 2006 of over US$202 million. These figures exclude production of sawn timber and other products for the domestic market. For example, PNG Forest Products produced a total of 17,241 cu. meters of plywood in 2006, of which domestic sales accounted for 9.78 cu. meters, and exports for 4,404, while stocks amounted to 3,349.
The PNG government does not produce employment data other than an index based on a survey. The Forest Industries Association (FIA) estimates total employment in forestry and timber products at 10,000, which is about 7 per cent of total private sector employment in 2006 of c.150,000, but their figure probably does not include small scale village-level production and “cottage industries” in the towns. It also excludes the so-called landowners who are in effect retained by the logging concerns and whose main source of income is royalties, at a rate of US$1 million a year at Wawoi-Guavi; total employment at Wawoi-Guavi and Kumasie is around 4,000 (source: RH at www.rhpng.com.pg). That figure alone suggests the FIA figure could well be an under-estimate, especially when the PNG Forest Products operations at Bulolo employed 899 persons as of December 2007, and these two operations account for only a small proportion of total exports (about 12% in 2005).