On 22 May 2008, citizens gathered in Tokyo for an international forum prior to the G8 Environment Ministers' Meeting to be held in Kobe a few days later. The title of the forum was "Carbon Emissions and Climate Change Caused by Forest Loss."
Forum participants from Japan and overseas expressed the following concerns:
The world's forests are in peril. About 13 million hectares of the remaining forests are disappearing every year, and carbon emissions caused by forest loss are responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with serious consequences for the global climate system.
Major causes of the conversion of natural forests include industrial tree plantations for paper production, plantations for commercial crops such as palm oil, rubber, soy bean, and coffee, and infrastructure such as dam construction. These developments are driven by rising global demand. Ultimate causes are resource-intensive economies in G8 countries for pulp and paper, agrofuels, and other commercial crops. In recent years, demand for these resources has increased due to the growth of emerging economies and due to poorly-thought-out policies in G8 countries aiming to replace fossil fuels with biofuels.
Communities where these forest-related developments occur often experience serious social disruptions, including land-use-related confrontations between developers and indigenous peoples and communities, the proliferation of illegal logging, difficulties in maintaining a certain level of food self-sufficiency, a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, and divided communities.
In many cases, these problems are related to the inequitable allocation of forests and land uses in producer countries that place an overemphasis on economic value and have unfair policies towards indigenous peoples. At a deeper level, these issues are often rooted in inadequate governance structures and in corruption affecting forest and land-use decisions. Any efforts to prevent the loss of forests, therefore, should take these factors into account in policies and in individual development projects.
Corruption and the lack of good governance have been exacerbated in part by official development assistance from G8 and other developed countries to corrupt governments, by private investments (often given with public backing), and by related structural adjustment policies.
Forest policies and tree-planting projects that only aim to increase forest cover may actually change what may have previously been a stable relationship between local communities and forests, and may have the undesirable effect of destroying forests and disrupting local livelihoods. Forest policies and projects will not be sustainable unless they are compatible with the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities.
There are concerns associated with international trading of carbon in an attempt to reduce forest loss. Among these are the risk of overemphasizing carbon storage while forgetting all the other valuable functions of forests, the focus on corporate profits at the expense of local communities, and the creation of loopholes allowing developed countries to avoid taking the necessary actions to reduce their energy consumption.
Based on the points stated above, we call upon G8 countries to take greater responsibility to address the loss of forests, and urge them to take the following urgent actions:
Recognize that the lack of good governance, violations of local peoples' rights, and the huge demand for and trade of forest and agricultural products are all factors contributing to the serious loss of forests.
Take the lead in reducing the over-consumption of forest products and commercial crops in G8 and other developed countries, and put a moratorium on policies that promote biofuels as these policies are further boosting demand for resources.
Establish and apply standards to ensure environmental and social sustainability, in the context of investments and international trade that affect the production of forest products and commercial crops.
When considering an international agreement that addresses forest loss in the context of climate change, it is essential to take into account not only the carbon-related functions but all of the multiple functions of forests. Therefore, such an agreement should not be based only on a carbon market, and should not facilitate the trading of emissions from forest loss in developing countries for emissions from developed countries.
Processes to formulate the above-mentioned standards and forest-climate agreement should not be driven solely by developed countries and donors, but should be transparent and include the fair and adequate participation of civil society, including the local communities and indigenous peoples who are important forest stakeholders in producer countries.
22 May 2008, at the JICA Global Plaza, Tokyo, Japan