Saturday, 27 September 2008

Forest ecologists question FSC certification

Great Bear Rainforest
New research shows that untouched old-growth forest stores 3 times more carbon than previously estimated, and 60 percent more than plantation forests. This finding casts doubt on industrial logging practices under Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification – whose standards have already been rejected by Friends of the Earth, Ecological Internet and FSC-Watch.

FSC certification implies that logging primary and old-growth forests is sustainable, desirable, fights climate change, and that plantations are forests. All these assumptions are now being questioned.

The warns, “If like Rainforest Action Network and ForestEthics, you continually negotiate away large primary forests to industrial forestry for vague promises of protection elsewhere -- as was done in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest (1) and most recently with the sell-out of 50% of Ontario's Boreal forests (2) -- you are greenwashing the destruction of the Earth and all her life. Years after the Great Bear sell-out, senior RAN management thought they had achieved FSC certification, when in fact it was just vague promises of "ecosystem based management". On Vancouver Island, FSC apologists such as EcoTrust and ForestEthics work for "certified logging" of the rest, which we now know releases huge amounts of carbon. The logging includes vast clear-cuts. While RAN does good work with coal, biofuel and now oil sands campaigns, it continues to egregiously sell out ancient forests with unquestioning support for FSC.” A review of FSC has been demanded by RAN 14 Oct 08.

FSC has also been attacked from the right.(3) Logging companies created competing certifications with weaker standards: the American Forest and Paper Association's Sustainable Forestry Initiative (RAN calls the SFI "certified deception"), the Canadian Standards Association, and the Pan-European Forest Council. On similar grounds, The Nature Conservancy has been severely criticized for cozy arrangements with corporations.


(1) The 2001 Great Bear Rainforest deal, which saved 1/3 of the old growth from clear-cutting, was brokered by the BC government with RAN, Greenpeace, and Western Forest Products, Interfor, BC Timber Sales, Canfor and Catalyst Paper. Seven years later, no operation is yet FSC certified, although Rainforest Solutions and Greenpeace claim “progress” is being made. For independent critical analysis of Great Bear see, and ClimateArk.

(2) See ForestEthics' 18 June 08 proclamation of success in brokering a deal with corporations and government in its Ontario campaign, and its claim that "demand for FSC products is skyrocketing". The non-profit FE is backed by Citigroup, HSBC, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. FE claims benefits similar to RAN's Great Bear. But negotiations by Greenpeace with the worst-offender company Abitibi-Bowater have just broken down (6 Sep 08).

(3) Greenwashing is the practice of claiming environmental action while doing little or nothing. It is a favoured tactic of governments and corporations which find denial of their environmental impacts to be no longer possible.

Other sources

See also analyis of REDD and Wikipedia on deforestation. World Rainforest Movement's SinksWatch, the 2004 Durban Declaration (en français, en español) against World Bank carbon funds – particularly when carbon offsets are used to justify increased burning of fossil fuels. The real solution to climate change is not offsets, but contraction and convergence.

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