Forests threatened by biofuel and food production

Forest land vital for absorbing carbon dioxide is coming under increasing pressure as demand for wood fibre and land to grow both food and fuel crops increases.

At a presentation at the House of Commons on Monday, the US-based Rights & Resources Initiative outlined the problems faced by the forests of the developing world and the forest-dependant poor who live in them.

Twin reports looked at how a growing population and lack of legal protection and political will put the forests under threat – and emphasized that their loss would be catastrophic in terms of carbon levels, biodiversity loss and social displacement.

The studies highlight a sharp increase in government allocations of forests to industrial plantations, and suggest that the booming growth in demand for food and fuel is rapidly eating up vast forestlands in the Amazon and Southeast Asia.

“Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab,” said Andy White, coordinator of RRI.

“Unless steps are taken, traditional forest owners, and the forests themselves, will be the big losers. It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone.”

Although the core message of the reports will not surprise those who keep themselves informed about environmental issues, the devil is in the detail.

The reports offer assessment of the likely scale of demand for land on which to cultivate biofuels as well as highlighting the potential problem of environmental refugees should the forests be lost.

The reports, From Exclusion to Ownership? and Tropical Forest Update can be found on the RRI Website.

Sam Bond

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