Forest Future Affected by Climate Rules

wafcdc at americanlands.org wafcdc at americanlands.org
Fri Oct 13 10:30:23 EST 2000


From: "wafcdc at americanlands.org" <wafcdc at americanlands.org>
Subject: Forest Future Affected by Climate Rules

To:		All Activists
From:		Jim Jontz
Date:		October 13, 2000

Subject:	Forest Future Affected by Climate Rules

Will future forest management emphasize protection and restoration of
remaining old growth forests, meeting fish and wildlife habitat needs, and
using longer timber rotations on commodity producing lands?  Or, is the
worldwide practice of industrial logging with more plantations, shorter
timber rotations, and even use of genetically engineered trees the future of
our forests?

These choices will be influenced a great deal by decisions made at The Hague
in the Netherlands in just a few weeks when an international climate summit
takes on the task of writing rules to implement the Kyoto Protocol on global
climate change.   Not just for forests but for environmental stewardship
globally, this summit could easily be as important as the World Trade
Organization (WTO)  meeting last year in Seattle.  Yet, very little public
attention has been focused on the decisions to be made at The Hague -- even
though the meeting begins on November 13, in less than two months. 

Forests are part of the Kyoto Protocol because as they grow, trees absorb
carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change -- and release most or all
of it back to the atmosphere when they are logged or cleared.   Since the
beginning of industrialization, the loss of forests is believed to account
for between a third and a half of all carbon released into the atmosphere. 

The U.S. government submitted its initial position on the forest and climate
issues to be considered at The Hague on August 1.  Regrettably, it falls far
short of what one might expect from an Administration where Vice President
Al Gore is helping row the boat.

First, the U.S. seeks rules that will allow our nation to rely extensively
on "business as usual" land use activities to meet our obligation for
reducing the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.  Virtually all
environmental groups agree that emission reductions from powerplants,
automobiles, and other polluters must be the principal strategy to reduce
greenhouse gases.  However, the U.S. wants to utilize land use activities as
a crutch to avoid the political controversy that might be caused by tighter
pollution rules, even though these "business as usual" forestry and
agriculture practices are not environmentally sustainable.

Second, the U.S. has refused to recognize the need for standards to prevent
environmental damage from forestry activities that might be promoted by the
Kyoto rules.  To the credit of the Administration, they have rejected some
of the phony carbon accounting that the timber industry has sought under
Kyoto.  However, the Administration's proposed rules would encourage the
industry's desire to achieve "carbon credits" by planting quick growing
monoculture tree plantations using chemicals, exotic species, and even
genetically engineered trees.   We shouldn't have to choose between losing
global biodiversity from climate change or from "quick fix," artificial tree
farming that creates "biological deserts" where species-rich native
ecosystems should  be instead.

Third, the U.S. is supporting accounting rules that could actually encourage
countries to log old growth forests before the official Kyoto "accounting
period" begins in the year 2008.  If governments receive credits for
planting new trees in recent clearcuts after 2008, but are not debited for
the logging that created the clearcuts and the need for replanting, an
enormous incentive would exist for expedited logging over the next few years.

In fact, protecting remaining old growth forests ought to be the primary
forest component of the rules the U.S. promotes at The Hague.  Globally,
half the planet's native forests are gone.  In the U.S., less than 2% of our
original old growth forests remain in the Lower 48 States, yet the U.S. is
still logging old growth on our publicly owned National Forests.  This is
particularly difficult to understand as more and more major U.S. wood using
companies such as The Home Depot, Lowe's, and Centex Homes make plans to end
their use of old growth in response to consumer demand. 

There is still time for the U.S. to move to a position of leadership at The
Hague and embrace both forest and climate "friendly" rules that promote real
forest protection, real carbon sequestration, and real greenhouse gas
reduction.  Yes, it will be tougher for the Administration to take on both
polluting industries and the timber companies.  But in the long run, the
well-being of both our forests and global climate will require more than the
"business as usual" approach that the U.S. government has taken to date.
The good news is that by protecting and restoring old growth forests,
avoiding more plantations and industrial forestry, and insisting that
polluters reduce emissions, this and future generations will benefit both
from responsible climate policies and better forest stewardship.

For more information on how you can get involved and help create friendly
climate rules that ensure forest protection, please contact Darcy Davis,
503/978-0132 or mailto:darcydavis at americanlands.org


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Steve Holmer
Campaign Coordinator

American Lands 
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