FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

Millions of FSC certified trees to be uprooted as Brazilian court condemns VeracelTags: Brazil, Certifier conflict of interest, Legality, SGS Qualifor

A final blow has been dealt to the credibility of the now 'self-suspended' FSC certifier SGS, by a Brazilian Federal court decision that nearly one hundred thousand hectares of eucalyptus plantation owned by SGS-certified company Veracel were planted illegally and will have to be torn down within 12 months. The company has also been ordered to pay $12 million in fines for causing environmental damage.

Given the seriousness of the failures with the Veracel certification, combined with what have evidently been gross certification failures in other countries including Guyana, Spain and Poland, FSC-Watch believes that the FSC Secretariat should now impose a global and indefinite suspension on SGS's FSC accreditation. The painstaking process should then begin of investigating all SGS-issued certificates to check for other major failures of SGS's certification systems, and cancelling them where necessary - starting with Veracel itself, which as of today's date remains FSC certified.

We provide below, in Portguese, the full press statement of July 10th from the Federal Court, preceded by a summary in English, provided by a contributor.

Decision condemns Veracel Celulose in Brazil

The Federal Court in Eunápolis(BA) made an historical decision, published in the Official Gazette of the Federal Judicial Power of Bahia on 17/06/2008

The Federal Judge decided, based on a civil public lawsuit against Veracruz Florestal (later it changed its name to Veracel Celulose), proposed by environmental organizations in 1993 and formulated by the Federal Public Prosecution Service, that:

  • Veracel Celulose must pay R$ 20.000.000,00 (US$ 12.000.000,00) because of damage caused to the environment (deforestation of native forest - Mata Atlântica - in the period 1991-1993) and restore the damage done to the Mata Atlântica.
  • The environmental permits conceded to the company between 1993 and 1996 ( that lead to the plantation of 96.000 hectares of eucalyptus monoculture) must be cancelled;
  • The eucalyptus illegally planted (a total of 96.000 hectares) must be taken out and substituted by native forest in periods of maximum 1 year.

Also CRA (the authority for environmental licensing in the state of Bahia) and IBAMA (the federal environmental agency) were condemned because of committing several irregularities and illegalities in conceding the licenses and permits to Veracel Celulose.

Veracel Celulose can challenge this decision, and already announced that it will do so.

This decision is historical in Brazil and a victory for all those who are struggling for years against the tree monoculture plantations and their impacts.

Veracel Celulose is owned by Stora-Enso(50%) and Aracruz Celulose(50%). In March this year, in spite of critics and in this case, in spite of this longlasting court case, Veracel was conceded FSC-certification by SGS-Qualifor.

Below, the press release of the Federal Public Prosecution Service in portuguese.


MPF/BA: Veracel é condenada a pagar R$ 20 milhões por desmatamento 10/7/2008 17h19

A Veracel, antiga Veracruz Florestal, foi também condenada a retirar a floresta de eucalipto no Sul da Bahia e a recompor a área com vegetação nativa de Mata Atlântica.

A pedido do Ministério Público Federal em Eunápolis (BA), a Justiça Federal no município condenou a Veracel Celulose a pagar 20 milhões de reais por danos ambientais causados pela plantação de eucalipto em área de remanescente de Mata Atlântica, no extremo Sul da Bahia.

O dinheiro deverá ser revertido para o Fundo de Direito Difuso (FDD), mantido pela União para recomposição de danos causados ao meio ambiente, entre outros. O MPF foi notificado da decisão, de maio último, apenas no dia 3 de julho. A Veracel ainda pode recorrer da decisão.

A antiga Veracruz Florestal foi também condenada a retirar a floresta de eucalipto nos municípios de Santa Cruz Cabrália, Belmonte, Eunápolis e Porto Seguro, todos na Bahia, e a recompor a área com vegetação nativa de Mata Atlântica, no prazo de três meses a um ano. A indústria fica sujeita à multa diária de dez mil reais em caso de descumprimento da decisão.

Ao analisar os argumentos do MPF, A Justiça também declarou nulas as resoluções do Cepram que autorizaram a monocultura, além de determinar que o Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) conduza o processo de licenciamento do empreendimento e exija que a Veracel apresente o respectivo EIA/Rima.

A ação civil pública foi proposta em 1993 pelo MPF contra a Veracruz, o Ibama e o Centro de Recursos Ambientais da Bahia (CRA) com base em denúncias da Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica e Greenpeace Brasil.

Nesse mesmo ano, o MPF obteve uma liminar na Justiça que determinou a imediata paralisação de qualquer atividade da Veracruz no sul da Bahia. No entanto, decisão do Tribunal Regional Federal da 1ª Região (TRF-1) derrubou a liminar, o que permitiu a atuação da Veracel nos últimos 15 anos.

De acordo com o procurador da República Anderson Vagner Goís, foram identificadas várias irregularidades no licenciamento ambiental conduzido pelo CRA, que resultaram em resoluções irregulares do Conselho Estadual do Meio Ambiente (Cepram).

Além disso, o procurador aponta omissão por parte do Ibama no licenciamento para o plantio de eucalipto e a não exigência do estudo e relatório de impacto ambiental (EIA/Rima), já que o processo deveria ter sido conduzido pela autarquia federal e não pelo CRA.

Por conta das licenças irregularmente concedidas, a área questionada na Justiça dos 49 mil hectares iniciais chegou a 96 mil hectares. "Apenas para se ter idéia da dimensão, trata-se de uma área um pouco menor do que aquela correspondente à cidade do Rio de Janeiro e a aproximadamente quatro vezes o Parque Nacional de Monte Pascoal, localizado na Costa do Descobrimento", disse o juiz Márcio Flávio Mafra Leal na sentença.

Número da ação civil pública: 2006.33.10.005010-8.

Assessoria de Comunicação Procuradoria da República na Bahia

Comments

isn´t it a shame for FSC having that operation among its certified plantation portfolio? And the same for our credibility as NGOs who are still supporting that certification scheme? This really undermines FSC´s credibility to deliver "legal timber products" to several public procurement schemes.

How can we finally stop such plantations being certified? How can we make FSC to be a real alternative? Any idea? And after years of lobbying and hard working by so many dedicated individuals and NGOs ... Any hope?

What a nightmare.

Best regards
László Maráz
BUND Germany

hello Laszlo,
Yes i have an idea, but this is very strikt.
As far as logging Companies and ENGOS "work" in one (fraudulent) association together, the protection of forest is at the dead side. The loggers will do what they want to do, and like You see, they do it! And the ENGOS sitting in the trap and dont want to see this "damage".
this is absolutelly sure.
So the only possibility for all (E)NGO is to leave the FSC at once and don't support any longer the fraudulent, criminal activities of FSC and there other members.
As a member you are responsibel what do the FSC! and do YOu really wish this?
Then will change the strategie of FSC very strong. Or the system will die (what i really hope)
Now the onliest "Lifeorder" for FSC is "to hold the lines for the importeurs and the trannational companies open". You cannot believe and wait to the end of the days, that the FSC system will change to better situation for the forest.
the opposite is going on. Its not a "Forest protection" ageny, its a "forest use and destroy" company. For profit and money, nothing else. FSC and the endconsumers and within them later! the ENGOs must and will learn this.
Start with a new system again, more transparent, more democratic, non corrupt and non fraudulent and non criminal. the onliest way to alieve, maybe for the ENGOS members of the FSC as well.
gerriet

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