Forests Back in the News: A Round-Up of This Week’s Hot Stories

By Becky Ran

Beside all the talk of oil spills, forests have been back in the news this week. From books to REDD to palm oil, here’s a news round up of the latest happenings.

Starting off the week, on Monday RAN released a report linking kids books to the destruction of rainforests. You can read more about it, or sign a petition asking the nation’s leading kid’s book publishers to stop using rainforest paper.

The UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) is back in the news too. This week, a process spearheaded by Norway and France met in Oslo, resulting in a new commitment of funding for the program intended to change the economic calculus on continued deforestation. Norway pledged US$1 billion to help Indonesia halt deforestation, in return, Indonesia has committed to a two year moratorium on the conversion of forests to plantations.

A copy of the agreement, plus some good analysis of how the pledge might be implemented can be found on REDD-Monitor, here.

Indonesia claims that the money will help them meet their ambitious climate pledge: cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

Next week, the first real meeting of the UNFCCC after Copenhagen will kick off in Bonn, and REDD is sure to be a topic of discussion there as well. Fred Pearce gives a good state of play on the program with some prospects on Yale 360.

Right now, REDD looks to be the only positive outcome likely to emerge from this December’s Cancun climate conference, the successor to last year’s failure in Copenhagen. If it happens, a new global business of carbon conservation in forests could soon be worth tens of billions of dollars a year.

Looks like at least one country is planning to come to the table at Bonn with increased commitments to reduce it’s forest emissions. India announced this week plans to reforest and restore 20 million hectares of cleared land.

It’s estimated the resulting new forest and restored ecosystem area would sequester 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year by 2020, equal to 6 per cent of India’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Rosewood from Madagascar has been the subject of much concern lately, and this week a new study in Science recommends it for endangered species status under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Says the New York Times:

Such protection might keep the trees from becoming burgundy-colored armoires and dressing tables. But it is not only the Chinese who covet the rich look of rosewood. Much of the furniture gets exported to the United States and Europe. Some of it appears in the polished contours of beautiful guitars.

Rosewood is already the subject of the first complaint under the amended US Lacey Act, a law that punishes corporations that import illegally logged wood.

Finally, palm oil is back in the news too. An Alternet article explains the ways palm oil in our food connects to rainforest destruction, just as the Malaysian government proclaims that environmental destruction will not stop their production of the “golden oil” and threatens to complain to the WTO if the EU bans use of biofuels made from palm oil.