Global Forest and Paper Summit: Bottom Line vs Conservation

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, June 3, 2005 (ENS) - A clash of forest values is evident in Vancouver this week. Forest and paper executives from around the world here for the Global Forest and Paper Summit 2005 are interested in opening markets and increasing trade. Forest conservationists and activists care about a reduction in logging old growth and a halt to plantings of genetically modified trees. Both groups claim to care about sustainability and the environment.

Over 600 senior forest and paper industry executives from 27 countries are focused on challenges for the industry in the period to 2015. More than 50 CEOs from 17 countries representing some of the world's largest forest and paper companies are attending the conference with the theme of Delivering the Bottom Line.

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British Columbia forest managers assess a wooded area. (Photo courtesy BC Ministry of Forests)
Industry associations from six countries - Australia, Canada, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States - are urging trade negotiators to focus on delivering a major opening of world wood and paper markets through the World Trade Organisation's Doha Development Agenda.

A delegation representing the forest and paper industry associations will be in Geneva next week to press the industry's case directly to government negotiators and the WTO. For the first time the delegation includes observers from the Malaysian Timber Council and the confederation of European Paper Industries.

"Our aim is simple. We want a positive outcome for our sector from the Doha negotiations," said Stephen Jacobi, chief executive of the New Zealand Forest Industries Council.

"That means above all eliminating tariffs and meaningful action to address nontariff barriers in our sector. Our industries need this to expand output and jobs and to continue making the enormous economic, social and environmental contribution on which our countries depend."

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Avrim Lazar is president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, chair of the National Business Association Roundtable and president of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations. (Photo courtesy FPAC)
Forest Products Association of Canada President Avrim Lazar said, "Trade liberalization is an opportunity offering enormous benefits in terms of new markets and new uses for wood and paper products, which are often more environmentally friendly and ecologically sustainable than competing materials."

John Hunt, Executive Director of the Paper Manufacturers' Association of South Africa agreed, adding that, "The Doha Round is about development and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty. This initiative would create greater economic opportunity in developing countries."

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W. Henson Moore is President and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association. (Photo courtesy AF&PA)
American Forest & Paper Association President and CEO W. Henson Moore urged governments to be ready to take action at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong at the end of the year. "Time is running out and the negotiations remain at a delicate stage. Negotiators need to set aside their defensive positions and focus on the benefits of trade liberalization, both for their countries and for the global economy as a whole," Moore said.

In the streets outside the Westin Bayshore where the forest executives are meeting, hundreds of conservationists and activists from across Canada and the United States rallied Wednesday to demand more forest protection and a shift to ecosystem-based logging practices for all of Canada’s endangered forests and endangered species habitat.

Demonstrators, dressed as caribou, salmon and bears, highlighted the discrepancy between the summit’s message of sustainability and the ongoing, widespread forest destruction occurring across Canada.

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Berman told the crowd that the rapid rate of logging in Canada is placing many species at risk of dissapearing (Photo courtesy WC2)
“It is ironic that more than 20,000 acres across Canada, an area almost the size of Vancouver, will be logged during this three day forest summit on sustainability,” said Tzeporah Berman, ForestEthics’s program director. “This summit is not about creating real change - it’s a forum for the same empty talk we’ve been hearing for years.”

In British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, five years of collaboration among industry, environmental organizations, First Nations and stakeholders resulted in one of the most innovative packages for forest protection ever presented, including protecting one-third of the region from logging and fully implementing Ecosystem-Based Management. Yet clearcutting continues.

“Most people don’t realize that the forests on the central and north coasts and on Haida Gwaii are rapidly disappearing, despite assurances that they have been ‘saved’,” says Jim Fulton, executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation. “Logging corporations still have a green light to haul out the best old-growth cedar, clear-cut log in salmon watersheds and destroy the habitat of the Kermode bear.”

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Demonstrators marched dressed like forest creatures vanishing because of logging in their habitat. (Photo courtesy WC2)
An analysis released by the foundation April 30 shows that 92 percent of small fish streams located within cutblocks are being logged to their banks, without adequate buffers; 78 percent of logging in Canada’s rainforest is in old growth forests - home to majestic old growth cedar and sitka spruce; and 74 percent of logging in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, continues to be done by clearcutting.

“The forest industry endorsed a vision years ago and supported a solutions package for the Great Bear Rainforest, but as a result of government and industry inaction to date nothing has changed on the ground,” said Amanda Carr, Greenpeace forest campaigner.

Logging is pushing British Columbia's endangered mountain caribou towards extinction, the campaigners say - only 1,670 remain, down from 2400 eight years ago.

"Companies like West Fraser Timber, Tolko Industries and the British Columbia government’s Timber Sales Program are cutting down the old growth forests on which these animals depend. The fate of caribou across Canada is threatened because of the increased logging of Canada’s boreal forest," the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WC2) says.

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Australian conservationist John Seed, wearing caribou antlers, serenades the crowd of demonstrators. Seed is the co-creator of the Council of All Beings, an interactive educational process. (Photo courtesy WC2)
“As the forest industry talks about ‘vision’ to enhance its public relations activities, more endangered species habitat is being destroyed,” said Gwen Barlee, WC2's policy director.

At the same time, the marketplace is changing. Major wood and paper customers like Staples and Home Depot have committed to stop buying wood that comes from ancient forests, old growth or endangered forests, and to purchase wood that is logged sustainably.

Claude Martin, WWF director-general is speaking to the forest executives inside the hotel meeting room. His message is, in part, that every day about 270,000 trees are flushed down the drain or end up as garbage all over the world, a quarter of this in Europe. Some of the wood for that paper is logged sustainably, but a significant part comes from countries where illegal logging is a big problem like Indonesia, Russia, and the Baltic States, WWF says.

The global tissue business is worth over US$30 billion dollars annually, and has grown by nearly four percent per year in the past decade and will continue to grow. WWF is evaluating tissue manufacturers this year and reporting to consumers on how they source their wood. The effort is to encourage sustainability among forest and paper companies.

WWF says the forest industry can help save the world's forests by working to:

A new forest conflict is emerging over the planting of industrial monoculture tree farms planted with genetically modified, or engineered, trees. In Chile, say four forest conservation groups, the impact is already devastating.

STOP GE Tree Campaign, ForestEthics, Global Justice Ecology Project and Rainforest Action Network issued a statement timed for the Forest and Paper Summit that details the problems with genetically modified tree farms.

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A natural araucaria forest in Chile. (Photo courtesy ForestEthics)
"The development of tree farms in places like Chile is having a devastating impact on native forests and indigenous communities,” said Aaron Sanger, Chile Program Director for ForestEthics. "Planting those tree farms with genetically engineered trees is like playing Russian roulette with local species and communities – there is no way to prevent the genetically engineered trees from contaminating the native forests, and we have no idea what the long term effects of genetically engineered trees are.”

In a recently released report, "Genetically Modified Trees in Chile: A New Forest Conflict," Mapuche biologist Lorena Ojeda writes that the negative effects of single species tree farming in countries of the southern hemisphere in general and southern Chile in particular are the result of destructive timber processes exported from the northern hemisphere.

Ojeda believes that Chile could be the first country to commercialize genetically engineered tree plantations. Her report states that an incentive for establishing tree plantations in general and genetically engineered trees in particular is the market for carbon credits—part of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanisms that were moved ahead at the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change held last December in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A conference sponsor, the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations (ICFPA), which Lazar leads, includes trade associations in 39 countries representing industries accounting for 75 percent of the world's paper and more than 50 percent of the world's wood production.

The organization maintains that its members, too, are working towards sustainable forests. "ICFPA is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to working with other stakeholders to ensure that environmental, social and economic benefits of our natural resources are available to current and future generations."