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Rain Forests

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 24 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures he has put in place to develop (a) national and (b) international policies to protect rain forests; and what assessment he has made of the merits of funding mechanisms to pay developing countries not to remove such forests. (115910)

The UK Government are pursuing rainforest protection through a number of measures that include research on improving forest management, banning trade in endangered species and reducing trade in illegally logged timber products.

On reducing the trade in illegal timber from rainforests, and all other forest types, the Government are working to implement the EU Forestry Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) regulation, adopted in 2005. This allows the EU to enter into Voluntary Partnership Agreements with timber producing countries, and will include a licensing system to identify legal timber products for export to the EU.

Collaboration continues with other major consumer countries in the G8 (plus China) and with the private sector. In particular, the UK Government’s timber procurement policy, which requires all timber supplied to have derived from legally harvested trees, has become a beacon for other Governments to tackle illegal logging through voluntary consumer action.

Developing countries currently have no obligations to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although they can contribute to global emission reductions by hosting projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM includes afforestation and reforestation projects, but not deforestation, because of concerns that forestry protection projects would displace the deforestation elsewhere, with little or no net gain.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations, Papua New Guinea and the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (CRN), and subsequently Brazil, have proposed that developing countries might participate in climate change agreements by voluntary targets to reduce deforestation below national (rather than project specific) baselines.

Achievement relative to a national reference level would take account of any displacement of deforestation within a country.

At the launch of the Stern Review in October 2006, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the UK would be working in partnership with a number of partners to explore ways of mobilising international resources to assist developing countries in sustainable forestry management. These partners include Brazil, the CRN, other developing countries, Germany (as Presidency of the G8) the EU and the World Bank. We are currently in talks with Germany and developing countries to establish how best to take this forward.

Furthermore, the UK Government are committed to working with other countries to promote the conservation of the world’s wildlife, for example, through our membership of agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where deforestation of rain forests is continuing; where policies have been introduced to prevent further depletion of the rain forests; and if he will make a statement. (115912)

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data shows that about 13 million hectares of the world's forests are lost annually due to deforestation. Brazil (3,103) and Indonesia (1,871) demonstrated the largest net forest loss (1,000 hectares per year) between 2000 and 2005. However, the net rate of loss is slowing down, thanks to new planting and natural expansion of existing forests. A range of initiatives introduced by Brazil are thought to have reduced deforestation rates in the Amazon by an estimated 31 per cent. in 2004-05 and 30 per cent. in 2005-06.

No single action can stop illegal logging. Combating it requires the simultaneous implementation of many policies and measures in and between those countries that produce timber and those that import it. In 2002, the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia that commits both Governments to work together to tackle illegal logging and the associated trade in timber between the two countries. Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) legislation was adopted under the UK Presidency of the European Union (EU) in December 2005. This will allow the EU to enter into agreements with developing countries that export timber.

In January 2006, new funding of £24 million over five years to tackle illegal logging and underlying governance problems was announced. This will focus on tropical countries in Africa and Asia.

Action to reduce emissions from deforestation is not currently included under the Kyoto Protocol. This is because of the risk of such projects simply resulting in displacement of deforestation, to no net environmental gain. Proposals recently put forward by Brazil, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Costa Rica, supported by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, measure reductions in emissions relative to a national baseline, rather than a project-specific one. This greatly reduces the risk of displacement. The UK welcomes both proposals, and is actively working with the EU and international negotiating partners to secure a successful outcome on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries at the UN climate negotiations in Bali, in December 2007.