Mar 17, 2005

United States set to wreck forest protection plan


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 17 March 2005

Labor is deeply concerned by reports the United States may seek to stop a vital multilateral effort to combat a global environmental problem – the illegal logging of the world’s rainforests.

At this week’s meeting of G8 environment ministers in Derby, UK, the Blair Government is seeking an agreement that all member nations will ban the importation of illegally logged timber.

This initiative follows an admission by Indonesia that corruption was so rampant they did not have the power to tackle the criminal gangs pillaging the country’s rainforests.

A leaked memo written by the head of forest policy in the US State Department, Stephanie Caswell, and obtained by the BBC, reveals the US will refuse to sign the Blair initiative and actively encourage Russia, Canada and Japan to also vote against it. A State Department spokesperson has confirmed the authenticity of this document.

Like the US Government’s actions in relation to the Kyoto Protocol, this appears to be an attempt to undermine international cooperation around an important environmental issue.

An estimated 20 million hectares of rainforest are destroyed each year – an area equivalent to the size of Victoria. Over 40% of the earth’s rainforests have already been destroyed.

Alarmingly at least half of all logging activities in regions such as the Amazon Basin, Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Russian Federation are being conducted illegally.

Despite rainforests covering only 6% of the Earth’s surface, their importance to the health of our planet cannot be understated. Rainforests are not only home to two thirds of all the world’s plant and animal species, they also act as the Earth’s giant “lungs” converting large amounts of carbon dioxide into oxygen and thereby helping to prevent climate change caused by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels.

We need to protect the world’s rainforests from illegal logging. The Howard Government must take an independent position and argue that all countries including the United States must support the Blair Government’s initiative.