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Action Alert: No to Copenhagen 'Carbon Logging': GOOD REDD Fully Protects and Restores Old Forests as a Global Climatic Imperative

Copenhagen climate talks must not provide 'Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation' (REDD) carbon market funds for old, natural forest logging, or for conversion of natural or semi-natural forests and other ecosystems to plantations. Ending deforestation and degradation of old and relatively ecologically intact primary and old growth forest ecosystems, and the ecological restoration of late-successional old growth forests, are keystone responses to maintaining global climate, biodiversity, water and ecosystems.

By Climate Ark, a project of EcoInternet - November 5, 2009

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Additional Background

Indications are that UN Copenhagen climate talks will allow selective logging and plantation establishment in primary and old-growth forests as a means to "fight" climate change. In draft texts, European and African negotiators have removed safeguards against the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations, and language ensuring first time industrial logging of primary rainforests is excluded from carbon finance has still not been included. This despite the fact no single international ecological policy initiative would protect global climate (and biodiversity and ecosystems) more effectively than protecting and restoring old forests wherever possible.  

Old forest logging must end -- to maintain climatic stability and achieve global ecological sustainability. This requires a rejection of the myth of "Sustainable Forest Management" in old forests, acknowledging that fully-intact, natural old forests both remove and store long-term, far more carbon than natural forests that are selectively logged or replaced by plantations.  Timber industry propaganda -- claiming logging ancient forests somehow saves them -- has been greatly aided by large NGOs like Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, who continuously greenwash unknown amounts of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) "certification" of old forest logging as desirable and even sustainable.

Copenhagen represents a unique and hugely important opportunity to advance both climate and forest protections. Forests are unnecessarily becoming a long-term carbon source, and the protection and restoration of old forests is both a climate and ecological imperative. Global ecological sustainability, equity and justice depend upon industrialized nations committing to major emissions reductions, recognizing their historical carbon debt including past forest mismanagement. Concurrently, emerging economies must take responsibility for massive increases in emissions from industrialization; and deforestation, selective logging and plantations in primary forests.  

We acknowledge the potential of REDD carbon finance to pay local peoples to protect forests and their carbon stocks, but recognize that ecologically and socially rigorous elements of "Good REDD" have not yet been defined, are not yet assured, and until the details are known, are not worthy of environmental movement support. In particular, we are outraged that REDD's original intent to only finance full protection (preservation rather than conservation) of ecologically intact old forest ecosystems from all industrial development including logging is not reflected in draft Copenhagen negotiating text.  

The latest Copenhagen drafts include so-called REDD+ proposals falsely suggesting that selective logging and plantation replacement of old forests is worthy of international forest carbon finance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ecological science informs us that at least 40% of an old forest's carbon stock is lost with initial industrial first time selective logging, that the soil and its carbon are disrupted, and that carbon re-sequestration and full ecological regeneration take millennia. Most products produced by old and natural forests find their way to the landfill, and carbon back to the atmosphere, within a few years.  Final Copenhagen REDD policy must strongly commit to maintaining carbon stocks in naturally evolved old forests, able to continue removing carbon, while naturally adapting for some time.

REDD must focus upon ending old forest logging by paying local peoples to ecologically preserve natural forests -- with all the attendant climate benefits, and also for biodiversity, ecosystems and water.  Other elements of "Good REDD" necessary for the international forest movement's support include science based forest definitions, explicit land tenure and human/indigenous rights, equitable benefit sharing for local communities and governments, and a focus upon governance, corruption issues and transparency. Ideally, there should be no carbon offset market mechanisms to fund any REDD agreement, and if there are, their contribution to total rich nation emission reductions must be capped.

Ecological Internet has led the way in highlighting the ecological risks and opportunities offered by REDD, and we are pleased to see growing expressions of concern regarding efficacy of claims that old forest logging can ever be beneficial for climate or anything else. An Earth in ecological overshoot dramatically requires more, rather than less, fully functional and intact natural ecosystems including old forests. The letter below to key Copenhagen climate negotiators makes the same points as above. Failure at Copenhagen is not an option, and would indicate governments have in effect abdicated in the face of global ecosystem collapse.

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Old forest logging must end -- to maintain climatic stability and achieve global ecological sustainability
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