Market News

Tuesday, 01 March 2016
Deforestation-free forest products from 187 million hectares globally

Below is a new paper by FSC’s Chief Advocacy Officer, John Hontelez, on the impact of deforestation, what it is and how it may be curtailed.

You can find it online here. Global rates of deforestation, and the related environmental and social impacts, are alarming, particularly in tropical countries. Deforestation is also undermining efforts to combat climate change and protect global biodiversity.

Deforestation has several causes. The expansion of agriculture is the major cause, and infra-structure and urban development contribute, but damaging forestry practices are also relevant.

More and more companies that use agricultural or forest commodities are committing to ‘deforestation-free’policies. For agricultural commodities, deforestation-free sourcing may be sufficient, but for companies using commodities from forests, ensuring that there are policies that prevent forest degradation is at least as important. A recent report by the Prince’s Charity concludes that tropical deforestation is responsible for 8 per cent of current anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, but that tropical forest degradation is responsible for 6–14 percent of such emissions.

Deforestation is permanent

Deforestation refers to the permanent removal of forest cover and the conversion of forest to other forms of land use, such as agricultural land, reservoirs or urban areas. Forest management activities (such as harvesting trees) or natural disturbances (such as forest fires) do not necessarily lead to deforestation, as forest cover can be renewed by natural regeneration or replanting.

Degradation may lead to deforestation

Although agriculture is the main driver of deforestation, illegal harvesting and other damaging forest management practices can pave the way for deforestation. An overexploited, degraded forest loses its original functions, species composition and productivity. It delivers fewer benefits (such as the supply of wood and other products) and fewer protective or recreational services, and is therefore more likely to be subject to deforestation for short-term financial benefits.

For forest-dependent industries (e.g. paper and pulp producers, furniture makers, wood-panel suppliers, the construction sector, pallet producers), a tool for supplying deforestation-free products already exists, and has done for 20 years: FSC certification. This tool has proven its impact and universality, and comes with additional value in terms of preventing forest degradation and providing social benefits.

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