Bridges Trade BioRes ReviewVolume 5Number 2 • July 2011

Editorial: Trading Forests


Taking stock of trade and the planet’s woodlands in the International Year of Forests

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Forests provide vital resources to humanity, both directly in the form of timber and non-timber products and indirectly in the form of ecosystem services, such as biodiversity, carbon storage, and soil and watershed management. But pressure on forests has increased dramatically in recent decades, due not only to timber harvesting but, increasingly, to land conversion for producing food, feed, and biofuel for a growing global population. Trade is a driving force behind the forest sector, but unless the right laws and policies are in place - and effectively enforced - the sustainable potential imbued in the world’s forests will never be realised.

This issue of BioRes Review explores some of the issues underlying trade and sustainable development in the forest sector. It addresses global policy issues at a general level, and focuses on the palm oil industry as a special case. Through this lens, the complex relationship between global trade, deforestation, and land use change, along with the policy framework at various levels and the role of important stakeholders, is uncovered.

Saskia Ozinga of FERN delves into the comprehensive agreements that the EU is tying with important timber-producing countries to ensure that timber imports have been legally harvested and do not drive deforestation. (story)

Turning to a specific case, several articles in this issue explore aspects of trade and sustainability in Southeast Asian forests. While the rapid growth and development of the palm oil industry has been a major economic force in the region, it has also been responsible for a massive loss of forest coverage and peatlands. Despite the best intentions, the economic, development, and environmental pressures at work in the region can often end up at odds with one another.

Abigail Hunter, a graduate student specialising in international trade, takes a broad look at the palm oil sector and delves into approaches being taken to make the US$30 billion industry more sustainable. (story)

Hans Brattskar, director of Norway´s International Climate and Forest Initiative, then outlines a groundbreaking Norwegian initiative to support the Indonesian government’s implementation of policies and institutions directed at protecting forests and peatlands. (story)

Next, in an interview, Denis Ruysschaert of PanEco Foundation talks about current drivers of deforestation as they relate to globally-traded palm oil, as well as providing nuance to the various initiatives established to address the issue. He contends that it is possible to reverse deforestation trends while increasing palm oil production, but that doing so would require a major change to the current business model. (interview)

Ahmad Maryudi, a lecturer at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, discusses the Indonesian palm sector in the context of the two-year freeze on new forest conversion permits. He suggests that despite the moratorium, the industry has already secured access to land and is well positioned for expansion. (story)

We then feature our second Rio+20 briefing in our trade and sustainable development series, paving the way for next year’s Earth Summit. In this issue, we highlight the work of some IGOs and NGOs on the forest sector in the context of the green economy. (story)

Finally, WWF provides an overview of sustainability issues in the forest sector - including the role of trade - and concludes the issue by calling for tough discussions on how to ensure the world’s forests remain standing for the benefit of future generations. (story)

We hope you enjoy the issue!

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