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In this Mother Channel interview at COP 22, with Christopher Martius (Principal Scientist Climate Change, CIFOR) – We work globally on forests and forestry issues, particularly in the Tropics and also on Climate Change problems related to forests and deforestation.   One of our research aspects is a comparative study on mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation.

In terms of your question regarding the state of forests globally and being in trouble, my answer would be ‘we are and we are not’ – we observe improvements happening, for example, Brazil has greatly reduced the cutting of their rain forests but it is still going on and so too in many other countries.  We are working on policy solutions that are global, which do take some time in being formulated and vetted before being implemented, e.g. the famous REDD+ in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.  It is time-consuming to get global agreement, mechanisms in place, the financial support and also the institutional support to make these finance flows work.

Forests will always be providing biological products, however, in terms of protecting forests one can use a) certified schemes or b) enter into an REDD+ agreement with rich donor countries to help protect forests and/or managing forests sustainably and being compensated for some of the losses – these are typically the type of issues we are continuously working on.

On the matter of illegal deforestation, yes, it is very common and probably in many places the main reason for deforestation.  It is often very difficult to reach into far away locations with the reach of the law and being able to protect forests efficiently.  Clearcutting of forests does happen, although what is important to understand is that many poor people in those distant locations do not have any other means of survival, except their dependency on cutting trees for wood, e.g. in very poor villages like Kalimantan, Borneo, where people basically had no other means of income and they were worried and not happy about the situation, but it’s what they have to do, they have children, want to survive, need food, schools, etc.

In terms of there being an alternative to the destruction of forests for survival, people have different relationships to forests, some are more protective, others less, but generally, people living in those spaces are probably more aware of the forest significance than for instance, the big logging companies that come in to cut forests for gains, which often is very scary for the locals.  On the other hand, income opportunities like palm oil plantations, which are really promising, but if these are being established on former pristine rain forest land, it is not viewed as a ‘positive action’, however, if palm oil plantations can be established in areas where soils do not support any other type of agriculture, it might be a useful solution, therefore, we cannot go for blanket solutions, we have to study each situation on a case by case basis.

We are currently seeing many distortions in subsidization, i.e. subsidies to fossil fuels are very large and not only involving direct subsidies but also indirect subsidies, where basically the society cleans up after others have gone in and extracted natural resources (fossil fuels), which are 90% of the emissions, whereas the land sector is basically only 10% of the emissions.  If you restore land that is currently degraded already, you might get more back than the current land emissions are, therefore it is quite clear that the land sector is the only sector where restoration can currently happen, where carbon can find a ‘sink’ – in that regard the land sector is very important, but it is also important to understand that action is also required in many other sectors, particularly the fossil fuel industry.

We work mostly through research grants given by countries who support the network of Intl. Agricultural Research institutions, of which we are a part, including bilateral donors, however, indirect support for our cause is most welcome, but the people of the Earth can also engage in sustainable consumer behaviour, which will make a difference.!

Links :  (Forestry/Logging process)  (Indonesian territory of Kalimantan makes up 2/3 of Borneo island)    (Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes)


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