ROME, ITALY, MARCH 16, 2009 — In a reaction to the alarming data released today in the 2009 State of the World’s Forests report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Friends of the Earth International and the Global Forest Coalition, two leading networks of environmental and Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations, called on world governments to take immediate action to halt deforestation and forest degradation.

Deforestation rates continue to be shockingly high in many countries despite increased awareness that forests -which host more than 70% of terrestrial biodiversity- play a key role not only in sustaining the livelihoods of more than one billion people but also in mitigating climate change.

The environmental networks called on the FAO Committee on Forestry to stop promoting plantations and urged governments to immediately halt the conversion of forests into biofuel plantations in their countries.

Governments should also recognize urgently Indigenous Peoples’ territories, promote community-based forest management and restoration, ban illegal logging and related trade, and implement immediate deforestation moratoria.

The FAO report notes that the expansion of large-scale monocultures of oil palm, soy and other crops for agrofuel production has been a key factor in the failure to halt deforestation.

The report also states that “the potential for large-scale commercial production of cellulosic biofuel will have unprecedented impacts on the forest sector.”

“If cellulosic biofuel leads to a strongly increased demand for wood, it will have a dramatic impact on the world’s forests, especially in regions like Africa and Asia, which are already facing increased pressure on forests due to the failure to combat illegal logging and the rapidly rising demand for wood in general,” said Andrey Laletin, chairperson of Friends of the Siberian Forests and focal point for North and Central Asia of the Global Forest Coalition.

Another driver for deforestation is illegal logging – 20% of the timber supply comes from illegal sources. “Europe remains one of the main markets for illegal timber despite a 2003 EU action plan to combat illegal logging and related trade. Strong legislation to halt illegal timber trade and to decrease Europe’s devastating impact on the world’s forests should be adopted as a bare minimum – there is no time to lose,” said Friedrich Wulf from ProNatura / Friends of the Earth Switzerland.

According to the FAO report, illegal logging could increase due to the global economic crisis, as it might cause a contraction of the formal forestry sector.

An additional worrying trend is the massive replacement of forests by large-scale tree plantations in many countries.

“Plantations are not forests”, said Isaac Rojas, coordinator of the Forest and Biodiversity Program of Friends of the Earth International. “All over the world, plantations destroy the lands and livelihoods of local communities and Indigenous Peoples, as well as biodiversity and water resources. They also store far less carbon than natural forests.”

“As they provide very little employment for rural people, tree plantations are also a major cause of rural depopulation and a further shifting agricultural frontier, thus causing the destruction of forests elsewhere,” said Simone Lovera, managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition.

“By actively promoting monoculture tree plantations, FAO itself is partly responsible for this global trend of replacing biologically diverse forests with straight rows of usually non-native trees,” she added.



In Rome: Simone Lovera and Andrey Laletin – Global Forest Coalition: Tel: +31-6-15 34 53 79 (Dutch cell)

In Rome: Friedrich Wulf, Pro Natura / Friends of the Earth Switzerland: Tel: +49-176 85 32 25 10 (German cell)

In Costa Rica: Isaac Rojas, Friends of the Earth international: + 506-83 38 32 04 or 506-22 68 60 39 (Costa Rican numbers)