The global forest debate

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) today launched the Living Forest Report which outlined the challenges and the urgency in saving valuable forest resources while meeting increasing demands for food and energy.

“We are living globally as if we had access to 1.5 planets”, said WWF executive director of conservation Lasse Gustavson.

Launched at today’s pre-summit conference for the B4E Global Summit in Jakarta, the report describes a model in which Indonesia could reach zero net deforestation by 2020. The alternative ‘do nothing’ scenario showed 232 million hectares of forest lost by 2050.

A global shift in forestry policies to ensure good governance will be needed to achieve the target.

The report highlights the squandering of forests due to suboptimal land use – largely due to poor governance. “The central and local government need to clarify Indonesia’s spatial plan and promote clearer guidelines for land allocation,” said Nazir Foed, director of WWF Indonesia.

He called for greater transparency in licensing and policy changes that delivered more incentives for sustainable management.

Improving palm oil growing practices is one measure that would have a significant positive impact on Indonesia’s forests.  With palm oil plantations predicted to grow between 50 to 500 per cent over the next 20 years, good management will be crucial.

Appropriate land allocation is one improvement. There are over 1.1 million hectares of unused degraded land suitable for palm oil plantations which are currently unused, said Mr Foed.

Increasing the yields of existing palm oil plantations with better growing practices is also key. 

Palm oil company Sime Darby has a programme, called Small Holders Acceleration and REDD Plan (SHARP) that gives small landholders technical assistance with a goal of doubling yields in 5 years. Currently small landholders average 40 per cent smaller yields than large private plantations.

But better growing practices won’t solve every problem.

Mark Wong of  Sime Darby outlined some of the problems with growing sustainable palm oil. He said that Sime Darby’s policy was to invest in certification for sustainable palm oil, but that the supply of sustainable palm oil currently exceeds global demand.

Participants at the event repeatedly stressed the need to change consumption patterns and market demand.

Shifts in consumer behaviour towards more sustainable lifestyles, including altering dietary habits, will help efforts to reach the zero net deforestation goal.

“Consumption is a critical variable in all scenarios. A shift in diet will have an enormous impact on land use and deforestation. We have much to lose if we delay by even ten years. If we can eliminate waste and overconsumption…. we can hold the line at zero deforestation to 2050,” said Rod Taylor, WWF’s International Forest director.

Eco-Business.com’s coverage of the B4E Global Summit 2011 is brought to you by City Developments Ltd (CDL).

Click here to read all stories from the B4E Global Summit 2011.

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