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Rainforests

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What further steps they are taking to help reduce the amount of logging taking place in the rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia.

My Lords, the Government are working to conserve forests in these countries through payments for reduced emissions from deforestation and other actions. In March 2007, the UK announced a £50 million contribution to conserve the Congo basin rainforests. In addition, DfID is helping the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify alternatives to industrial logging, supporting new work to help on forest law enforcement and governance in Latin America, and improving forest governance and reduced deforestation in Indonesia.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am involved with the work of the Rainforest Foundation. I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Will she take note of the fact that, quite often, large sums of money given or sent to Governments are diverted and wasted? Will she therefore note the clear advice given in the recent Stern report to the effect that local communities should be involved and that, wherever possible, this Government should take the lead in working through locally based NGOs to identify who owns the forest lands and what rights they should have?

My Lords, I salute the noble Lord’s work on rainforests throughout the world. We do indeed take heed of the advice from Sir Nicholas Stern that policies on limiting deforestation should be shaped and led by the nations where those forests stand. For that reason, we have given £50 million to the Congo basin. The whole project is managed by Professor Wangari Maathai, who I am sure all noble Lords would agree is the person best placed and with the most appropriate knowledge to manage that money on behalf of the Congo basin.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their ongoing efforts to stop illegal logging, but is the Minister conscious of the fact that the Stern report estimates that 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions every year are caused by deforestation? Will the Government redouble their efforts to get an international agreement, which probably would involve paying countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil not to allow deforestation?

My Lords, the Government are very conscious of the contribution made by deforestation to climate change. For that reason, we have redoubled our efforts and are working with the relevant countries and in partnership with the EU and the G8 to try to combat the problem and reach an international agreement, as my noble friend suggests.

My Lords, the noble Baroness has just referred to work with the EU. Is she optimistic that the EU will legislate to tackle illegal logging? Given that China is often a route for this particular trade, can she say whether a ban would reach down the supply chain as opposed to applying only wherever the wood has been immediately exported from?

My Lords, the Commission will present its proposals later this year. The UK Government have been following this very closely, and I am confident that real action will be taken. On the supply chain, I am afraid that I shall have to respond to the noble Baroness in writing, but I should say that I have noted that the Conservative leadership is also in favour of EU action on this subject, and I welcome that.

My Lords, further to the G8 summit declaration on the vital importance of reducing deforestation, what are the Government’s plans for including forest carbon in their own UK emissions cap and trade system?

My Lords, we are reviewing this matter. We are in discussion with our partners in this country, in the G8 and in the EU, and the matter will be considered in depth in December at the meeting in Bali.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that a member of my immediate family works for Survival International. It is concerned about logging but is more interested in the people living in these areas, who are being removed from their land, from their habitat, so to speak. What do the Government think about that? Is it on the radar screen of our agenda that people living in the Amazon region and elsewhere face serious difficulties as a consequence of logging?

Yes, my Lords. Much of DfID’s work in the Congo basin and in Indonesia is with the indigenous populations and civil societies of those countries. This is to ensure that the people who live in the forests can remain there, develop their capacity to manage those forests and find alternative livelihoods if necessary.

My Lords, returning to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Eden, what is being done to ensure that the funds reach the intended recipients? In a country such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 4 million people have died in the past 15 years, which is regularly plundered by its neighbours and where there is no civil society worth talking about, what guarantees do we have that the money is not being embezzled and going into the pockets of crooked politicians?

My Lords, the Government and their international partners are monitoring these issues extremely closely. We are also working on governance in those countries precisely to ensure that the people working there develop the necessary capacity to administer those funds in a non-corrupt way.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government could support the use of credits for avoided deforestation in the clean development mechanism? Not all logging is illegal, but there has to be some incentive to stop it.

Yes, my Lords. As I understand it, that is one of the issues under consideration. We would welcome further discussion on these issues.

My Lords, are the Government sufficiently aware of the condition of migrant workers sent, in appalling conditions, to the north-east of Brazil? Is the Minister aware of the ILO’s efforts to improve those conditions, and what are we doing about it?

My Lords, the noble Earl has drawn this important matter to the Government’s attention on other occasions. We are certainly aware of it and, as he will know, we provide funding to the ILO to work with workers so that they are not exploited in the way that they currently are.

My Lords, in encouraging the use of biofuels, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that those biofuels are not grown at the expense of forests, which are frequently cut down to provide ground on which other crops can be grown?

My Lords, as I understand it, we are developing monitoring systems with our partners precisely to ensure that biofuels are from sustainable forests only. If I am wrong, I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.