redd-monitor: Norwegian funded study exposes the myth of sustainable forest management
In 2007, sustainable forest management was written into the definition of REDD in the Bali Action Plan. Ten years later, the main funder of REDD, the Norwegian government, has commissioned a review of sustainable forest management.
As the report is not available on the website of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (or anywhere else), REDD-Monitor is making it available here, in the interests of transparency and to generate further discussion.
(It’s possible that the report is still in draft form, although there is no indication in the report that this is a draft version. The file title – and the file properties – indicate that it was created in November 2017.)
The review, “Sustainable forest management in the tropics: between myth and opportunities”, was written by Ervan Rutishauser and Martin Herold. They write that,
The aim of this review is to provide an objective assessment of the effects of wood harvest in tropical forests and identify current knowledge gaps.
Rutishauser and Herold note that a 2011 draft conclusion defined by the chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice defines sustainable forest management as “a dynamic and evolving concept aiming at maintaining and enhancing the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.”
That, of course, covers just about everything and nothing, depending on whether you think cutting the trees to save the forest is a good idea, or not.
The executive summary is not a summary of the report
The report’s executive summary is at odds with the rest of the report. The executive summary gives the impression that sustainable forest management exists and could provide a way of preserving forests. The report itself provides considerable evidence that this is not the case.
The executive summary states that sustainable forest management is carried out in only 18% of active production forests in the tropics, but no source is given for this figure, and the figure doesn’t appear in the report itself.
The executive summary states that lack of regulation allows expansion of illegal logging and conversion of degraded forests, and that investment in sustainable forest management is hampered by low timber prices, lack of financial incentives, and unsecured land tenure.
Nevertheless, sustainable forest management, the executive summary states, “could play a significant role in climate change mitigation efforts in reducing the negative environmental impacts (e.g. loss of biodiversity, carbon emission) of industrial logging”. The report itself makes no such claims for sustainable forest management.
The executive summary concludes that,
Overall, this report points out that preserving intact forests, encouraging sustainable management of production forests and developing a restrictive forest policy framework appear as a best (but hard to attain) compromise.
It’s difficult to believe that the executive summary was written by the same authors as the rest of the report.