Why does deforestation matter?
We all depend on forests. Stopping deforestation would deliver up to 30% of the solution to tackling climate change. But only 15% now remain intact (2017). The majority of this deforestation is carried out to produce globally-traded commodities such as soy, beef, palm oil, timber, and pulp and paper. These commodities end up in 50% of the products in our supermarkets - but they could be produced sustainably.
Corporate supply chains and $trillions of investment keep clearing forests for the sake of short-term quick $$s.
- LifeScience, https://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html
- Meeting points on migrating flightpaths
- Soil erosion
- Carbon capture and storage. Deforestation is the 2nd leading cause of carbon pollution, causing 20% of total Greenhouse Gas Emissions. When trees die, they release their stored carbon - ~ 1bn tons per yr. When trees live, they remove carbon from the atmosphere. ref
- Water: forests filter the water we drink
- Air: forests filter the air we breathe, "Lungs of the planet"
Deforestation is being brought about by just 4 commodities ref. Other contributors are coffee, rubber, cocoa, and sugar - but none currently has an impact even near the Big Four. And all of them are driven by human population increase.
- Beef production
- Soy plantations. Trase is working on increasing transparency in supply chains; pinning the destruction of forests to soya production in Brazil and Paraguay, as well as the region’s beef industry. See also Bunge, but note comments in report, p.36.
- Palm oil plantations
- Timber for wood products
- Cocoa production for chocolate
- Tax Havens, eg UK shell companies
- You and me, pretending not to know, turning a blind eye
- Jul.2018: Complicit in Corruption. How $billion firms and EU govts are failing Ukraine's forests. Updated Nov.23.2018, EarthSight.
Ultimate responsibility lies with the EU govts whose job it is to implement and enforce the law. Implementation of the EUTR in the most important EU Member States for Ukrainian wood imports has been poor. The report showed many of the same EU timber processing giants found to be consuming suspect wood were lobbying. The EU's greatest influence has been forcing the Ukrainian govt to overturn its log export ban of Apr.2015, maintaining that the ban contravenes the free-trade terms of its May.2015 €1.8 bn loan agreement with Ukraine, and has repeatedly withheld large tranches of that cash in order to try to force the govt to overturn it. In Dec.2017, the EU cancelled the final €600m payment, with one of the 4 reasons cited being the continued failure by the Ukrainian authorities to implement their earlier promise to repeal the ban. Opponents of the EU's action note that the wider 2014 Association Agreement between the two jurisdictions allows for trade restrictions where they are justified on the grounds of public policy and to protect nature. By seeking to force Ukraine to overturn the ban, the EU was itself arguably in breach of the other terms of the agreement under which it commits to support efforts to prevent corruption, illegal logging and cross-border trade in stolen goods. Ukrainian commentators have alleged that the real reason the EU is pressuring for the lifting of the ban is that a number of large EU wood processing companies are enriching themselves on a ready supply of cheap, likely-illegal, logs from Ukraine. Many of the same giant firms which have been buying Ukrainian wood tainted with evidence of possible illegality and corruption have been actively pressuring the European Commission to force Ukraine to overturn the ban. Schweighofer, the company most affected by the ban, has reportedly pushed for it to be lifted through the European Organisation of the Sawmill Industry, a Brussels-based lobbying group. The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) has also been lobbying the European Commission hard regarding the ban. Both Mondi and International Paper have seats on the CEPI Board, while Lenzing and Bukoza are represented by their national associations. Both Mondi and Lenzing admitted to Earthsight to having lobbied the Commission regarding the ban, via trade associations of which they are members. All of these companies were substantial consumers of Ukrainian logs prior to the ban. This report shows all of them have also received suspect wood. (p.54-55)
The UK's Tax Haven status helps - a very large proportion of Ukraine’s wood exports to the EU continue to be traded via UK letterbox companies. A quarter of all the ‘fuelwood’ trade from Ukraine to the EU continues to pass through these firms, as does at least 7 per cent of all the sawn wood.157 one of the largest traders of Ukrainian timber to the EU has been the ‘Osuna Group’, http://osuna-group.com/ ... incorporated in the UK for various reasons including the “predictability and attractiveness of the legal system”
and its “double-taxation and investment protection treaties”.
The rapid expansion of many these big firms into Eastern Europe has been assisted by European institutions. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development provided 60% of the funding for the construction of Egger’s large chipboard mill near the Ukrainian border in Romania, and has also helped fund Kronospan’s Ukrainian operations. The Hungarian govt subsidised the construction of Swiss-Krono’s new mill on the Ukrainian border. p.31
The main focus of the EU’s efforts on tackling illegal logging has been on tropical forests.
Companies involved in illegal logging in Ukraine
- Schweighofer Group: timber from Schweighofer's Romanian mill has been traced to products sold in Ikea.
- JAF Group: other large Austrian firms connected to Ukraine include the JAF Group, whose Hungarian subsidiary Jaf Holz Ungarn is the largest EU importer of sawn wood from the Ukrainian Carpathians (see Case Study 2 on p.36). (p.31, p.44) [, https://www.jaf-group.com/en/company Jaf: About]
- Egger, the world’s 2nd largest producer of wood-based panels (used in construction and to make cheap furniture). Egger is also an Ikea supplier. Egger supplies lumber, wood-based panels and wood flooring sold by DIY chains Wickes and Homebase in the UK, Hagebau, Obi and Hornbach in Central Europe and French chains Leroy Merlin and Castorama. Also see p.45. Egger: About
- Kronospan has continued to purchase large volumes of timber from Ukrainian State Forestry Enterprises. Also an Ikea supplier. Supplies lumber, wood-based panels and wood flooring sold by DIY chains Wickes and Homebase in the UK, Hagebau, Obi and Hornbach in Central Europe and French chains Leroy Merlin and Castorama. Kronospan is also among the largest buyers of Ukrainian wood, with its factory in Poland receiving around 6,500 tonnes per month of fuelwood logs and a mill in Volyn in north-western Ukraine which ships 8,000 tonnes per month to the EU. In 2017 it also received approval to purchase a controlling stake in a large Ukrainian medium-density fibreboard (MDF) plant from a wealthy Ukrainian mogul. (See p.31, p.45.) Kronospan-Worldwide.com
- Swiss-Krono has continued to purchase large volumes of timber from Ukrainian State Forestry Enterprises. Swiss-Krono is also an Ikea supplier. Supplies lumber, wood-based panels and wood flooring sold by DIY chains Wickes and Homebase in the UK, Hagebau, Obi and Hornbach in Central Europe and French chains Leroy Merlin and Castorama. The current largest consumer of Ukrainian wood, however, is Egger’s competitor Swiss-Krono, the world’s third largest wood-based panel maker.214 Though it is headquartered in Switzerland, Swiss-Krono is owned and operated by the Austrian Kaindl family, whose timber-related assets lead them to feature on both the Austrian and the Swiss ‘rich-lists’. Swiss-Krono was spun off by the Kaindl family from its parent group, Kronospan, which is the largest wood-based panel maker in the world.. (See p.31, p.45, p.46) SwissKrono.com
- International Paper ... Polish pulp mill operated by International Paper, the world’s largest paper company. International Paper produces the HP and Xerox-brand photocopy paper sold in supermarkets throughout Europe. Earthsight found HP paper produced in its Polish mill on sale at branches of leading stationery chain Staples in Germany. (See p.44.)
- Mondi, Europe’s largest paper packaging maker. (See p.44).
- Lenzing (among the world’s largest producers of viscose fibre, used to make clothes). (See p.44).
- Schweighofer Group (See p.45).
- Lenzing's viscose fibres are used in the production of clothing sold by H&M350, Zara351 and Marks and Spencer352, among others. (p.47)
Egger, Kronospan, Swiss-Krono and International Paper all remained among Klesivske SFE’s top customers long after its FSC certificate was terminated in Aug.2017. These 4 firms have continued to purchase timber from govt suppliers in Rivne province (Ukraine’s 3rd largest timber producer) whose senior officials are the subject of multiple serious investigations for timber-related corruption. All of the firms insist that they are in full compliance with EUTR - but this is BS.p.38
What we can do
Take away the market. ~70% of Ukraine's timber is exported to Europe. Pressure the end-users: Ikea, Obi, Baumarket, Hornbach, Homebase, HP, ...
Earthsight publishes a Guide Book for Acitvists and Communities "Investigating Illegal Timber". It includes detailed guidance on the sources of information and tools that can be used to find out if timber is being illegal harvested, traded and sold to sensitive markets. link
Forest Stewardship Council
Another important culprit is the Forest Stewardship Council, the world’s leading forest certification organisation. Originally founded in the early 1990s by environmentalists and progressive industry leaders to help consumers identify sustainably produced wood products, FSC has been the subject of increasing criticism in recent years. Its rapid growth has been accompanied by a gradual weakening of standards, and a steady stream of scandals where FSC-certified companies were shown to have been involved in everything from illegal logging to human rights abuses. Though it was never its principal purpose, the FSC’s systems include checks on the legality of timber as well its sustainability.
This report shows that FSC has fundamental flaws which mean it cannot currently be relied on to ensure legality in Ukraine. Most of the illegal sanitary felling sites we found in the Carpathian region are in FSC- certified forests, for example, and most of the SFEs which are the subject of serious criminal corruption investigations have nevertheless remained certified. ref (also see p.49)
- Dec.15.2018: Palm oil trader reveals its plan to save the rainforests. The world’s largest palm oil trader has unveiled a plan to tackle deforestation that campaigners believe is a “potential breakthrough” in saving rainforests. Wilmar International, which supplies 40% of the world’s palm oil, has committed to map its suppliers’ entire landbank by the end of 2019. The company, based in Singapore, will use satellite monitoring to check for deforestation. Companies caught cutting virgin forest for plantations will be immediately suspended from doing business with the company. Greenpeace, said: "If Wilmar keeps its word, by the end of 2019 it will be almost impossible for its suppliers to get away with forest destruction. Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure it delivers.” This year Greenpeace reported that one of the worst offenders for buying palm oil from producers that have cut down virgin rainforest is Mondelez, the US owner of Cadbury. Mondelez backed Wilmar’s plan. Andrew Ellson, The Times.
- Oct.04/.2018: Scientists say halting deforestation 'just as urgent' as reducing emissions. Protecting and restoring forests would reduce 18% of emissions by 2030 and help to avoid global temperature rise beyond 1.5C. Large tracts of tropical forests, which hold a vast amount of carbon, are being lost in the Amazon, Central Africa and Indonesia. The IPCC’s report is expected to mention the need for as-yet unproven technology to burn vegetation and bury the resulting emissions underground or directly suck carbon from the air as a way to meet the 1.5C target. Scientists warns the strategy, known as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), is untested and risks wiping out huge areas of rainforest in order to make way for plantation timber for energy. “We will have a hotter, drier world without these forests." The prospects for averting at least 1.5C of warming appear dim, with the upcoming IPCC report warning last week the world is “nowhere near on track” to meet its Paris commitments. Oliver Milman, The Guardian.