Activist Groups Challenge UN Definition of Forests

For Immediate Release 11 December, 2008

Groups unite to challenge the definition of forests under UNFCCC/REDD

Poznan, Poland (UN Climate Conference)–Global Forest Coalition, The
Wilderness Society, World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology
Project, Via Campesina, the International Youth Delegation and the STOP GE
Trees Campaign united today to challenge the UN/REDD definition of forests.

Currently the UN considers industrial tree plantations as forests. This is,
simply put, an egregious error. Plantations are not forests. Forests are
diverse ecosystems and plantations are void of biodiversity. The UN
definition endangers Indigenous Peoples, forest dependent people, peasants,
small farmers, biodiversity and exacerbates climate change.


The groups held a media conference this morning and several actions occurred
on the theme of calling on the UNFCCC to change the definition of forests so
it distinguishes between native forests and plantations.

“We have united to challenge the definition of forest under the UNFCCC to
ensure that agricultural tree crops, or plantations are not defined as a
forest”, said Gemma Tillack, an international youth delegate and campaigner
for The Wilderness Society in Australia.

“The conversion of native forests to plantations is bad for biodiversity,
people and the climate. Human rights, especially women’s rights, are being
violated where there are plantations, and they should not be defined as
forests. In addition, industrial tree plantations impact the
climate–tropical forests and grasslands store significantly more carbon
than tree plantations”, said Ana Filippini from World Rainforest Movement
(Uruguay) and member of the GenderCC Network-Women for Climate Justice.

“Schemes such as REDD allow companies to prevent family farmers from using
the land to produce the food that is needed to feed their communities and
their countries”, said Luis Muchanga of Via Campesina in Mozambique. He
continued, “Deforestation, which is a major driver of global warming, is
not made by peasants and indigenous peoples, but by large companies that are
given the right to convert the forest to tree plantations”.

The groups are proposing that the definitions are changed so:

o Forests are defined as ‘a terrestrial ecosystem generated and maintained
primarily through natural and ecological and evolutionary processes that are
home to most of the world’s biodiversity’.

o Plantations are defined as a crop of trees planted and regularly harvested
by humans that do not provide habitat for biodiversity.

“The definition of forests under REDD is utterly ridiculous”, stated Sandy
Gauntlett, a Maori indigenous rights activist from New Zealand, and
representative of Global Forest Coalition. “It leaves wide open the
ability of countries to destroy their natural forests and replace them with
industrial tree plantations-which destroys wildlife habitat and displaces
indigenous and forest dependent communities. New Zealand is an example of
the disaster of tree plantations-and now we are in the process of developing
genetically engineered trees for plantations”, he continued.

“Commercial release of genetically engineered Franken-trees in plantations
poses a very serious threat to the world’s forests and peoples”, added Anne
Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project in the U.S. “GE
insect resistant trees, for example, can contaminate water and soils and the
pollen may be toxic to people that inhale it or wildlife that ingest it”,
she stated.

The groups in this joint press release agree that: “If it is not resolved,
and REDD applies this definition of forests, the global community could miss
the chance of avoiding dangerous climate change and the 1.6 billion people
who depend on forests for there survival will continue to be negatively
affected”.

Contact: Orin Langelle, Global Forest Coalition media coordinator +48 696
723 046
Gemma Tillack, The Wilderness Society +61 427 057 643
Ana Filippini, World Rainforest Movement +48 785 260 455

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