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World's forests 'threatened by food, fuel demands'

Source:  Copyright 2008, Agence France-Presse
Date:  July 14, 2008
Original URL: Status DEAD


The world's forests will be gobbled up by an escalating demand for fuel and food unless steps are taken to hand the people who live in them greater rights, two reports published here Monday said.

The US-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an international coalition of forest governance and conservation groups, warned that widespread deforestation would make climate change more severe.

It would also push the billion or so people dependent on forests further into poverty and trigger conflicts, the coalition's reports said.

The international community must work to empower poor forest-dwellers if the loss of forest and its consequences are to be avoided, the RRI concluded.

The world will need a minimum of 515 million more hectares (1.27 billion acres) by 2030, in order to grow food, bio-energy and wood products, said the reports.

This is almost twice the amount of available land and equal to an area 12 times the size of Germany, the RRI said.

"Arguably we are on the verge of a last great global land grab," said RRI co-ordinator Andy White.

"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."

The RRI found that developing countries' governments claimed an overwhelming majority of forests and had made limited progress in recognising local land rights.

The report said that left open the potential for violence, as some of the world's poorest peoples struggled to hold on to their only asset: the forest land.

The biggest carbon emitters from deforestation, including Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Democratic Republic of Congo should be targeted for investment in land rights reform, the research urged.

"It is clear from the research that the dual crises of fuel and food are attracting significant new investments and great land speculation," White said.

"Only by protecting the rights of the people who live in and around the world's most vulnerable forests can we prevent the devastation these forces will wreak on the poor and the poorly governed hinterlands.

"In the process, our studies have shown that we will protect the forests themselves by recognising the rights of the people with the most to lose if they are destroyed."

The reports' conclusions are supported by Britain's Department for International Development.

"These new studies should strengthen global resolve to protect the property rights of indigenous and local communities who play a vital role in protecting one of the most outstanding natural wonders of the world," said International Development Minister Gareth Thomas.

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