After 20 years it is time for the FSC to properly protect Intact Forest Landscapes

Kumi Naidoo. Forest Stewardship Council 20th General Assembly, Sevilla (Spain) - “Tropical forests in trouble” panel discussion. © Greenpeace

Last night I spoke at the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) General Assembly’s 20th Anniversary celebration event. As one of the founding members of the FSC, Greenpeace still believes that FSC remains the most credible system for promoting responsible forest management. It was inspiring for me to see in the audience FSC members and stakeholders from all over the world including representatives of indigenous and community groups, unions, environmental NGOs and small and large corporates from over 80 countries.

From the outset FSC recognised the importance of the multitude of riches that our forests hold, and how important it was to enshrine their protection in FSC principles and criteria, including strong protection for biodiversity, high conservation values, respecting the traditional rights that local and indigenous communities that depend on forests have. FSC has also drawn important lines against forest threats by not allowing the certification of conversion of forests to plantations or the use of GMO trees.

However, Greenpeace sees FSC’s 20th Anniversary as a pivotal point for FSC and its members to reflect on FSC’s mission to promote responsible forest management for the years to come and take a strong position on moving away from the conversion of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) to fragmented and degraded forest.

IFLs have an extremely important conservation value as they store a disproportionately high amount of global forest carbon, are large enough to sustain their biological diversity, and are critical for the livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples living within and adjacent to them. They also provide crucial ecosystem services such as regulating water and nutrient cycles.

Last week a new study published by Greenpeace in partnership with the University of Maryland and Transparent World, with support from the World Resources Institute and WWF Russia revealed the alarming speed at which the IFLs are being degraded. Over 104 million hectares of the world’s remaining Intact Forest Landscapes were degraded from 2000 to 2013 which equates to a size of a football pitch every 4 seconds being degraded.

Clear-cut Region of Boreal Forest. A contrasting view between an area that was clear-cut and intact Boreal Forest on René Levasseur Island. 09/07/2005 © Greenpeace

Given the climate change crisis the world is facing, now more than ever, we need to recognise the value of leaving our forests standing.  FSC needs to urgently develop stronger tools and services for forest protection, particularly for IFL forests. This does not mean walking away from these areas but rather forging new ground to certify and place the value it deserves into forest conservation and restoration, protected areas and ecosystem services (e.g. water sources/quality, soil stability, carbon storage).

FSC needs to complement this by investing more in supporting greater certification opportunities for forest-dependent communities – which currently only represents 5% of the total area certified by FSC. This will help bolster FSC’s credibility as well as increase FSC’s relevance in many regions, particularly in tropical forest regions.

I ended my intervention by urging the FSC community to remember that it is our utmost duty that we must do all that we can to protect our forests for our grandchildren and their children.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

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