Forests and our Future

Promoting Forest Certification as part of Rio+20 Framework of Action

Copyright: Copyright: © FSC A.C.Introduction

The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) calls upon governments to agree on a Rio+20 Framework of Action that will become the reference guide for governmental action at all levels, in their efforts to move towards sustainable development globally. Existing commitments, combined with insufficient implementation have not reversed the main trends undermining the carrying capacity of the planet or had a major impact on eradication of poverty. The Framework needs to do more than re-confirm previous commitments. It must outline a more effective, comprehensive scenario, one that is transparent about the nature and dimensions of the challenges ahead, and includes all relevant responses (i.e. regulatory, fiscal, financial, and those developed by civil society).

In particular, FSC calls upon governments to include commitment on systematic support and promotion of transparent, effective, balanced multi-stakeholder-governed forest and chain-of-custody certification systems, in all parts of the world. It calls upon the governments to pay special attention to tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. This is because these forests are most threatened at the moment, and their disappearance or degradation has the most severe social and environmental impacts. At the same time, sustainable management of tropical forests in keeping with FSC’s standards can bring substantial benefits for the local population, the local environment, as well as the global community. There are many opportunities to combine conservation with social and economic objectives. Governments can play a key role in achieving these opportunities through their domestic forest policies, their public procurement practices, their development assistance programmes.

Forest Certification and preferential public procurement for certified products will not solve all of our problems but it can make an impressive difference. Include it in the Framework of Action!

The final version of the Rio+20 Framework of Action will be released during the Rio+20 Conference, 20-22 June 2012. It is certain to include commitments on the promotion of sustainable forest management. Governments recognize that forests provide many opportunities to address issues surrounding: poverty, climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation, gender equality, and preservation of traditional knowledge. What remains uncertain is whether the Framework will include specific commitments on using/ promoting instruments, such as certification and procurement, to tackle the drivers of deforestation and degradation.

1. Forest certification as a tool for sustainable development

Responsible management of natural resources is a precondition for sustainable development. FSC was set up by environmental and social organizations together with forest owners (private and community) and companies “to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests”.

FSC’s main instrument is certification of sustainable forest management practices, combined with certification of the supply chain of forest products coming from such management units, through its conversion
process through to the end consumer, who is informed about this by means of the FSC label. In this way it has created a globally recognizable system which brings producers and consumers together in reducing forest degradation and deforestation while mobilizing the resources we need from these forests.

FSC has developed, and is constantly updating, its standards and tools in balanced multi-stakeholder processes within its membership as well as in open processes at the national level.

2. Mainstreaming forest certification

Currently 150 million ha in the world is FSC certified, equivalent to 4% of all forests in the world, or 7% of productive and semi-productive forests. Other certification schemes, of varying quality, cover more than 240 million ha. Forest certification has taken off but is not mainstreamed in most parts of the world, and faces ongoing challenges due to the practices of illegal logging, concerns about the investments needed for sustainable forest management (in particular for small and community producers) and imperfect connections between supply and demand. Another issue is that not all schemes are equally reliable, and even the best has occasional failures in enforcing the certification requirements on the ground.

In its Green Economy Report , UNEP describes certification of sustainable forest management, such as FSC, as a promising development, and a relevant contribution to shifting existing trends. However, it needs to be applied at a much greater scope, in particular in the tropical and sub-tropical areas. It concludes that “There are reasons for optimism, but greening the forest sector requires a sustained effort. Various standards and certification schemes have provided a sound basis for practicing sustainable forest management, but their widespread uptake requires a strong mandate and consistent policies and markets.”

Forest products play a key role in a green economy. They provide construction material for zero-energy buildings and can replace other resources for environmental and scarcity reasons. It is obvious that in the future there will be increasing demands for forest resources, and it is essential to mobilize these products in harmony with globally agreed objectives, to halt the deterioration of biodiversity, to strengthen the role of forests in climate mitigation, as well to improve social justice and ensure respect for people who are directly dependent on forests.

3. Forest certification in the Rio+20 Framework of Actions

Halting deforestation and forest degradation, and reforestation in ecologically sound ways is more important than ever. A combination of measures and programmes is required, but forest certification is certainly a key one of them. It sets precise requirements for forest management while providing social advantages and a certain market for the products.

In order to help to build sustainable development forest certification schemes must be based on robust standards and credible third party monitoring and verification, and need systematic support and encouragement from all governments – the governments that are meeting here in Rio. Governments can make a decisive difference, by fighting illegal logging, by implementing effective biodiversity protection, and by supporting forest certification schemes with their public procurement policies, development assistance, and encouragement of multi-stakeholder processes that create and maintain credible forest certification schemes. Given the dramatic, ongoing deforestation in the tropical areas, this should be given top priority in the  coming years.

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