Oakland Institute, Press release, December 12 2017

Oakland, CA — As the One Planet Summit begins in Paris, the Oakland Institute's new report, Carbon Colonialism: Failure of Green Resources’ Carbon Offset Project in Uganda, lays bare the false solutions to climate change promoted by Western corporations and institutions in Africa. This scathing exposé reveals how Green Resources, a Norwegian industrial forestry and carbon offset project, continues to undermine food security and livelihoods by excluding people from their own land in Kachung, Uganda. The project, supported by a number of international financial institutions, illustrates how climate change is increasingly misused as a pretext to impose a new form of colonialism in Africa.

Following the Institute’s exposé in 2014, revealing the mistreatment and violence perpetrated by the company in Uganda, Green Resources’ only carbon credit buyer, the Swedish Energy Agency, suspended funding in 2015 and outlined ten actions for the company to undertake to reinstate payments. The following year, Green Resources’ major shareholder, global forestry investment firm Phaunos Timber Fund, divested from the company.

As the Swedish Energy Agency reassesses whether to resume payments to Green Resources in early 2018, Carbon Colonialism is an irrefutable indictment on the failure of Green Resources to address the harmful impacts on local communities as a result of its project.

“Our field research reveals that communities surrounding the plantation face an on-going hunger crisis resulting from restrictions placed by the project on access to land, water, firewood, along with perilous working conditions for Green Resources’ workers,” explained Kristen Lyons, lead author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute. “It is simply unacceptable that a Norwegian company seeks to extract a profit in the face of such dire conditions,” she continued.

The firsthand accounts presented in the report debunk recent audits of Green Resources that present the company as being compliant in most areas of reform demanded by the Swedish Energy Agency. Such audit findings are difficult to reconcile with Green Resources disregard for the desperate conditions local communities face.

“Green Resources continues to misrepresent their negative impact in the region,” commented David Ssemwogerere, co-author of the report. “They champion the meager impacts that they’ve had, while downplaying the fact that their project is threatening the very survival and livelihoods of villagers.”

“The industrial monoculture plantation forestry run by Green Resources at its Kachung site is incompatible with the needs of local people who rely upon the same land for their livelihoods and existence,” stated Frédéric Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute. “In the wake of our latest findings, it is imperative that the Swedish Energy Agency suspend all future payments to Green Resources and cancel the deal for purchase of carbon credits. This is the only viable response in the face of the worsening impact of Green Resources on the livelihoods of local villagers in Uganda.”

The full report is available at www.oaklandinstitute.org/carbon-colonialism-failure-green-resources-carbon-offset-project-uganda

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.

Media Contact: Frédéric Mousseau

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Sveaskog's FSC-certified clear-cut at Lannaberget in Dalarna. Photo: Bengt Oldhammer

Press release, November 29, 2017:

A large number of biologically valuable forests are planned to be felled in Sweden. In an open letter, 90 representatives from 70 FSC-certified companies from large consumer countries in Europe demand that all forests with high conservation values in Sweden must be permanently protected. Sweden is the third largest exporter of paper, pulp and sawn timber in the world and the UK, Germany and the Netherlands belong to some of the largest importers of Swedish forest products. Representatives from these European companies warn that if the demands are not met, they will consider halting trade with Swedish forest producers.

The companies that have signed the open letter are concerned about several high conservation value forests which are planned to be felled by certified forest companies such as Sveaskog, Stora Enso and SCA (1). They appeal to the Swedish government, the Swedish Forest Agency and the certified forest companies to protect all high conservation value forests permanently.

Sweden holds a considerable proportion of the remaining natural forests in Europe. Sweden is committed to protect its biodiversity through international and national environmental targets. However, Sweden is far from reaching these targets. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a forest certification for sustainable forestry. According to the FSC standard, high conservation value forests should be exempt from forestry. Despite of this, many biological valuable forests are felled by the certified forestry in Sweden.

In the open letter the European companies write: ”It is not acceptable that these remnants of high conservation value forests, which are unique and a part of the last wilderness in Europe, lack permanent protection and are being felled under the name of the forest certification FSC. This clearly undermines the credibility of the FSC. A sustainable forest management should not degrade biodiversity, species and natural environments.” 

The companies that have signed the open letter work with everything from printing, packaging and recycling to interior design and construction, as well as forestry. 

”Consumers want to be sure that they buy responsible products. In Germany the FSC label supports a nature-oriented forestry with high environmental standards while in Sweden it supports destructive clear-cutting. This is terribly confusing for consumers and completely distorts the competition. The credibility of the whole Swedish forestry and the FSC certification is threatened”, said Knut Sturm, Head officer at Lübeck City Forest Administration in Germany. 

The initiators of the open letter are the Swedish NGO, Protect the Forest, and the German NGO Robin Wood.

“We cannot afford to lose the last remnants of older valuable forests in Sweden. The loss of biodiversity is critical and we urgently need to act with scientific nature conservation assessments in mind, not production-orientated asserts. We hope that the open letter will be an eye-opener for the decision-makers in the Swedish government, Swedish Forest Agency and forestry. All high conservation value forests must be permanently protected”, said David van der Spoel, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest.

Read the open letter here.

The undersigned companies also address the Swedish Forest Agency’s decision to suspend the registration of woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden in 2017, indirectly allowing the felling of unregistered woodland key habitats. The decision was heavily criticized by other authorities, researchers and non-profit conservation organizations. As a result, the registration will be resumed in 2018 but with a modified definition of woodland key habitats which critics fear will be weakened (2). Read more about this issue in Endnote 2 and in the open letter.

Contact

David van der Spoel, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest (Sweden), and Professor, Biology, Uppsala University, 

+46 70 315 70 44, david.vanderspoel(@)skyddaskogen.se

Stig-Olof Holm, Board member, Protect the Forest (Sweden), and University Lecturer, Ecology, Umeå University, 

+46 70 359 44 81, stigolofholm7(@)gmail.com

Company contact (Germany):

Knut Sturm, Head Officer of Stadtwald Lübeck, + 49 451 122 7711, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Questions regarding Ore Forest Landscape (Sveaskog):

Sebastian Kirppu, Forest biologist and author of the report about Ore Forest Landscape, +46 70 308 19 84, sebastian.kirppu(@)gmail.com

Bengt Oldhammer, Forest expert and author of the report about Ore Forest Landscape, +46 70 334 33 82, bengt.oldhammer(@)telia.com

Questions regarding Messlingen (Stora Enso):Kristina Bäck, Spokesperson, Protect the Forest, +46 70 443 28 19, kristina.back(@)skyddaskogen.se

Facts: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, non-governmental organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests. FSC Sweden is an independent member organization in the FSC International network. Over 12 million hectares of forests in Sweden are FSC-certified which corresponds to about half of the productive forest land.  All larger forest companies in Sweden are FSC-certified.Sweden is the third largest exporter in the world of paper, pulp and sawn timber products with an export value of SEK 125 billion. Around 80 % of all forest products in Sweden are exported.  Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands are some of the largest importer countries in Europe of Swedish forest products.  These countries receive guarantees from the Swedish forest industry that the imported Swedish forest products originate from responsible forestry. Despite this, the Swedish FSC-certified forest companies, such as Sveaskog, Stora Enso, SCA and other companies like Holmen, continue to systematically log forests with high natural values, without considering viewpoints from locals, environmental NGOs and researchers.

In total, 90 representatives from 70 FSC-certified companies in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have signed the open letter. These companies work with everything from printing and packaging, to wooden floors, furniture and forestry. Not all of these companies import or use forest products from Sweden. However, they all share a common sense that they want to safeguard the FSC as a credible brand for sustainably managed forests, and that they want the remaining high conservation value forests in Sweden to be protected.The initiators of this open letter are Protect the Forest (Sweden) and Robin Wood (Germany). These NGOs consider it crucial for the Swedish forestry sector and the Swedish government to take greater environmental responsibility and to act according to what the stakeholders in Europe demand.

(1) Endnote 

The FSC-certified forestry in Sweden relies on clear-cutting and routinely converts older and natural forests into even-aged and species-poor monoculture tree plantations and industrial tree stands. Below are a few examples of critically threatened forests which reveal persistent and structural mismanagement, systematically conducted by FSC-certified forest companies.  These are not exceptions, rather they are indicative of the prevalent destructive forestry practiced by Swedish companies. 

SVEASKOG: The state-owned forest company Sveaskog, one of Europe's largest forest owners, has over the last 4 years clear-cut hundreds of hectares of high conservation value forests in the large valuable Ore Forest Landscape in the county of Dalarna in Sweden.Recently, Sveaskog clear-cut 40 hectares of an acknowledged high conservation value forest in Brännvinsberget in Ore Forest Landscape where 40 different red-listed and indicator species had previously been found.Many more valuable forest areas in Ore Forest Landscape are planned to be felled by Sveaskog.Moreover, Sveaskog plans to clear-cut a high conservation value forest in Melakträskliden in the municipality of Arvidsjaur in north of Sweden. See photos of the forest here.Sveaskog also plans to clear-cut biologically valuable forest at Brännliden in the municipality of Arvidsjaur which is surrounded by clear-cuts and plantations. See photos of the forest in Brännliden here.Furthermore, the unprotected and biologically valuable 1,300 hectare forest landscape with a mosaic of older natural pine and spruce forests in Rävdalen in the municipality of Gällivare in the north of Sweden, where 80 different red-listed species have been found, is at risk of being fragmented by Sveaskog. Local villagers have been struggling to protect the area over the last 2 years. The County Administration Board is planning to do inventories in the area next year since the area is of possible interest of a nature reserve establishment. However, Sveaskog plans to harvest socially valuable forests within the area already this year.

STORA ENSO: Swedish-Finnish forest company Stora Enso is planning to clear-cut high conservation value subalpine forest on a private owner’s land which is not FSC-certified, south of the lake Messlingen in the county of Härjedalen in Mid-Sweden where a total of 37 different red-listed and indicator species have been found. See photos from the forest here.Subalpine forests of significance for biological diversity should be exempt from forestry measures according to Annex 10 in the Swedish FSC standard. After protests from a large number of environmental NGOs, Stora Enso has decided to reevaluate the future management of the forest area planned to be clear-cut at Messlingen. It will not conduct any logging until the reevaluation is completed. 

SCA: Greenpeace is currently running a large campaign aimed at the Swedish paper giant Essity which receives much of its pulp from the Swedish forest company SCA. SCA and three of its external suppliers felled over 23,000 hectares of forest within high value forest landscapes between 2012-2017, while another 22,000 hectares are still threatened by felling.

HOLMEN: Holmen was among other things planning to clear-cut biologically valuable forests in the county of Jämtland in 2016.--

(2) Endnote  Despite the current threats to high conservation value forests described in (1) Endnote, the Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency, Herman Sundqvist (former Head of Forestry of Sveaskog), decided to “pause” the registration of woodland key habitats in northwestern Sweden in March 2017 till the end of 2017. A woodland key habitat is a forest area that is of major importance for the flora and fauna and often harbors endangered and rare species. According to the Swedish FSC standard, woodland key habitats must be exempted from felling (criterion 6.2.1S b). The Swedish Forest Agency is heavily influenced by the forest industry and therefore plans to modify the definition of woodland key habitats including the inventory methodology prior to the resumption of registration in 2018. The “pause” process has been strongly criticized by a number of actors, including officials from the Forest Agency itself, as well as by representatives of other authorities, researchers and non-profit conservation organizations. 120 forest scientists and officials from the Swedish Forest Agency and the County Administrative Boards sent a letter of appeal to Director General of the Swedish Forest Agency in April 2017.Also, an opinion piece signed by seven of the scientists was published in the Swedish daily paper Dagens Nyheter on the 11th of April 2017.Woodland key habitats are intended to be an essential part of rational forest protection planning, and the decision to “pause” the registration of woodland key habitats is highly inappropriate since it risks exacerbating this aspiration significantly. There is a considerable risk that the new woodland key habitat definition and methodology in 2018 will be weakened. Further, the resumption of the registration of woodland key habitats in 2018 will not guarantee the protection of these valuable biotopes since they lack formal protection. Every year, many registered woodland key habitats are clear-cut or negatively affected by felling. 

DEFINITIONS

Continuity forest is a forest that has never been subject to clear-cutting. Its forest environment and substrates have developed over a long period of time and provide natural values which have not been affected by the large-scale clear-cutting forestry. In total, about 34 % of the productive forest land, in 7 mapped regions in the north of Sweden are considered to be continuity forests (ca 5,5 million hectares). In total, only 12 % of these forests are formally protected.  

Core area is a forest area that the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Forest Agency appraise to be of major significance for flora and fauna and/or for a prioritized forest type. Core areas can be a part of a stand or consist of several stands. The size varies from a few hectares to several hundred hectares in rare cases. Woodland key habitats and other high conservation value forests are normally included in the concept of core areas.  About 8 % of the productive forest land is estimated to be core areas (ca 1,7 million hectares). In total, about 63 % of these core areas are formally protected, while the rest is not.  

High Value Forest Landscape (HVFL) is a critical forest area with ‘particularly high ecological preservation value’ and it contains a higher density of core areas than the general landscape.  

Productive forest land is forest land which, according to established criteria, can produce an average of one cubic meter of timber per hectare per year.  Therefore, it is used for large-scale forestry. The majority of red-listed species are found in productive forests that have not yet been affected by modern forestry. In total, less than 5% of the productive forest land is formally (strictly) protected as nature reserves, national parks, habitat protection areas and nature conservation agreements.  

Unproductive forest land is land not suitable for forestry. About 2 % of the forest living red-listed species are dependent on unproductive forest land i order to survive and another 5 % partly need unproductive forest land in order to survive. The international FAO definition of forest land includes unproductive forests, and this is why the most of the authorities in Sweden use the ‘productive forest land’ definition which excludes unproductive forest land. 

Woodland key habitat is a forest area that has a very large significance for forest flora and fauna, on the basis of a collective assessment of the habitat structure, species composition, stand history and physical environment. Red-listed species occur or can be expected to occur there. Only about 2 % of the productive forest land (ca. 466,000 hectares) in Sweden is registered as woodland key habitats. Merely 15 % of these are formally protected. Every year, about 200 hectares of registered and about 2,000 hectares of unregistered woodland key habitats are felled.  Moreover about 3,000 hectares of key habitats are negatively affected (damaged or partly damaged) by felling. --In 2015, about 27 % of the tropical forests were protected in the world, while only 3 % of all boreal (northern) forests were protected.  Sweden and Norway are two of the countries in Europe with least formally protected forests.

References

 

Press release, October 17, 2017
The clear-cut forest at Brännvinsberget where 40 red-listed and indicator species were found, before it was logged. Photo: Sebastian Kirppu.

The Swedish state-owned forest company Sveaskog has recently logged a valuable natural forest at Brännvinsberget in the municipality of Rättvik in the county of Dalarna in Sweden where 40 different red-listed and indicator species were found.

“It was definitely an area worth protecting, something we already stated in 2013. Despite our consultation with Sveaskog as well as visiting the site together with them, the forest was logged," said Margareta Wikström, chairperson of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Rättvik. 

Since 2014, the recently logged forest at Brännvinsberget was part of an ongoing FSC complaints process. However, Sveaskog did not notify the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation prior to the felling.

“We are shocked. No one would ever think that a FSC certified company would log such a biologically valuable forest. This is definitely not a question of a so-called mistake,” said Margareta Wikström.

Sveaskog has also logged and recently notified many other high conservation value forests for final felling in Rättvik. This is shown in the inventory report "Logging continues“ (2017). The report states that Sveaskog has logged more than half of about 800 hectares of valuable forest in Brännvinsberget since 2011-2012, despite being aware of the natural values of the area. 

”The image of Sveaskog as a company caring for nature is on the verge of being completely wrecked. Its forestry violates the environmental certification label FSC and the environmental objectives of the Swedish Parliament.”

"The owner directives of Sveaskog must change and our politicians need to put their foot down. Sweden should be a role model and Sveaskog must protect all high conservation value forests. All serious politicians must stand up for these demands. The forestry economists should not be the ones to decide how the forestry should be conducted. A simple decision by the government can significantly increase the environmental considerations in Ore Forest Landscape, without extra costs in the budget," said Margareta Wikström.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation hopes for a possibility to reach a quick conclusion because Sveaskog is the main land owner in the area. The WWF chose the Ore Forest Landscape to be one of Sweden’s Natural Pearls in 2015 due to its very valuable and beautiful nature. It is a unique forest landscape in Sweden and Western Europe with natural pine forest. Its natural values have been documented in about ten different inventory reports.

The inventory report "Logging continues - A report from Ore Forest Landscape 2017 with an analysis of the nature conservation ambitions of Sveaskog” is written by Sebastian Kirppu, Helena Björnström and Bengt Oldhammer. The inventories were carried out during the summer and autumn of 2017 on behalf of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation in Rättvik. The report is a follow-up of the report "Ore Skogsrike - A living forest landscape in the municipality of Rättvik. Inventories of valuable forests conducted in 2011-2013" (2013; only available in Swedish).

For more information

Margareta Wikström, +46 70 668 71 46, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sebastian Kirppu +46 70 308 19 84, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bengt Oldhammer +46 70 334 33 82, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Parts of this valuable natural forest is planned to be felled by Stora Enso in November 2017. 

To see the photo collage from Messlingen above, click here.

 

Wally Menne passed away in South Africa on Thursday 26 October 2017.

Wally worked for Timberwatch, an organization which monitors the impacts of the timber industry, and he was one of Protect the Forest's most dedicated and supportive working partners on global issues. He helped us write an open letter to the CBD Secretariat in order to change the FAO definition of forests, and together we tried to stop the coal power plant Rampal in Bangladesh and we protested against the Swedish Energy Agency's tree plantations in Kachung in Uganda.

This was Wally – extremely dedicated and hard working, passionate about saving planet Earth from corrupt global governments, capitalism and wasteful overconsumption. He was always there to give wise advice or to edit articles (he mastered words very well). Wally engaged in advocacy and activism, both internationally and locally, especially to help prevent the negative social and ecological impacts of monoculture tree plantations. He tirelessly worked to change the FAO definition of forests, always stressing that plantations are not forests.

In the beginning of 2017, Wally started a blog in order to help end the misinformation and confusion regarding FAO's forest definition (which does not make a clear distinction between forests and tree plantations).

The passing of Wally is a tremendous loss – the world has lost a committed and irreplaceable soul. Wally was a true source of both inspiration and courage. We will miss you, Wally. Our deepest condolences to Wally's family.

Wally Menne's own words in a Global Forest Coalition email in January 2017:

"If anything, most governments promote environmentally harmful land-use activities and resource mismanagement that will inevitably result in the systemic degradation of ecosystems and the landscape, on a one-way dead-end track to species loss and desertification. Whether from clear cut logging, mining, industrial tree plantations, large-scale factory-farming of livestock for meat and dairy production, these types of activities are taking us all down the slippery slope to an ecological disaster.

The escalating global trend towards large-scale industrial crop and commodity production which demands the obliteration of vast areas of natural vegetation, especially grasslands, together with the self-sustaining local communities that they support, seems to be unstoppable, driven by the rabid madness of capitalist accumulation and control. The current 'un-economic' system is dependent upon an on-going and unsustainable increase in global human numbers, accompanied by the mindless over-consumption of the elite, which together provide the inflated demand for the market commodities that the corporate sector needs in order to produce and to sell, more and more disposable junk to its victims.

Another major driver of this problem is the move by so-called 'developed' countries in the global North to avoid committing to the most obvious of genuine climate change solutions, i.e. reducing emissions at source. Instead they have come up with a number of patently false proposals, including the burning of forest biomass to generate electricity, establishing destructive tree plantations in other peoples countries as 'carbon sinks', creating imaginary 'carbon credits' to trade in fictitious emission reduction markets, and of course converting millions of hectares of tropical forest into Oil Palm biodiesel plantations, so that motorists in the EU won't have to cut down on their holiday trips and weekend joy rides.

Here in South Africa there are plans by the sugar industry to convert hundreds of thousands of hectares of community land into industrial sugar cane plantations for ethanol fuel production, thereby creating vast toxic 'green deserts'. As usual the main objective of the exercise will be making short-term profits for their shareholders, while the environmental and social costs will be passed on to already poor rural communities and future generations."

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