FSC-Watch

An independent observer of the Forest Stewartship Council

The Orwellian world of FSC, plantations and 'Motion 18'Tags: Plantations

Orwellian: (Pertaining to the author, George Orwell) "Connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past, including the "unperson" - a person whose past existence is expunged from the public record and memory, practiced by modern repressive governments."

Last week, we reported on a move by some of the FSC's members to reconsider the prohibition on the certification of plantations that have been established on former forest land that has been cleared later than 1994. 'Motion 18' which was put to the FSC's 2011 General Assembly, held last week in Sabah, Malaysia, proposed setting up a working group to develop new FSC rules for the certification of recent plantations.

Following a report which appeared on mongabay.com, some of the FSC's members seem to have dropped their support for Motion 18 - the wording of which was completely revised before being approved by the General Assembly. Notably, Greenpeace disappeared as a supporter of the new motion - though the environmental group might well be wondering how its name appeared as a seconder of the original motion, in conjunction with companies implicated in widespread forest destruction.

The consulting company Daemeter, which proposed both the original and the revised motion, reported the outcome of the General Assembly debate on the motion as follows:

The FSC General Assembly passes Motion 18 calling for FSC to revisit and complete its Plantation Review

The controversial Motion 18 proposed by Daemeter's President Director Aisyah Sileuw was passed by the FSC General Assembly earlier this morning (Friday, 1 July 2011) at the 2011 GA meeting in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

The motion passed with 86% support from the Economic Chamber, 62% from the Environment Chamber, and 58% from Social Chamber.

The motion originally proposed "...establishment of a chamber-balanced working group to consider under what circumstances and conditions post 1994 converted plantations may be able to be FSC certified'.

After discussions between FSC chambers to accommodate different viewpoints on how FSC should engage with plantations, the original wording was modified as follows:

"The FSC Plantations Review was not fully completed in 2009. The Motion calls for FSC to revisit and complete the Plantations Review and to create a balanced-chamber working group to look into stakeholder concerns relating to plantation certification"

The 'FSC Plantations Review' is a working group established by the FSC board in 2009 [sic - in fact it was established in 2004] to review plantation requirements for certification under the FSC Principles and Criteria (P&C). Currently, the FSC P&C does not allow plantations that replaced natural forest after 1994 to become FSC certified, making it difficult for forested developing countries to seek FSC certification of their expanding plantation industries.

Motion 18 does not call for revision of the 1994 cut-off per se, but rather for FSC to complete the Plantation Review, including an updated, multi-stakeholder evaluation of the basis for the 1994 cut-off and whether it serves the best long term interest of sustainable forestry, especially in developing countries.

Whilst the wording of the motion may have changed to make it look less like a blatant attempt to move towards certification of recent forest destruction, the intent of the motion has not altered. Describing its likely impact, FSC's report of the General Assembly motions' discussion notes that Motion 18 will result in "Clear rules for accepting post November 1994 conversion. Certification of additional plantations that currently do not qualify." A working group of six persons meeting two times for three days each is estimated by the FSC as costing approximately US$30,000 plus US$20,000 FSC staff time.

The Plantations Policy Working Group, which will now take up the issue, spent nearly five years trying to resolve the potential revision of FSC's Principle 10, which deals specifically with certification of plantations. Some FSC members and observers will worry that the revival of the group will simply lead to rail-roading through of industry interests, and will inevitably result in a dropping of the post-1994 conversion ban.

The full wording of the original and revised motions appears below, along with those who proposed and seconded them.

MOTION AS PASSED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY:

"The FSC Plantations Review was not fully completed in 2009. The Motion calls for FSC to revisit and complete the Plantations Review and to create a balanced-chamber working group to look into stakeholder concerns relating to plantation certification'

Proposed by: Aisyah Sileuw, Daemeter Consulting

Seconded by: Aditya Bayunanda, WWF Indonesia

Seconded by: Timothy Synnott, Estudios Forestales Synnott A.C. [Former Director of the FSC International Secretariat]

MOTION AS ORIGINALLY PROPOSED:

"A chamber balanced working group shall be established to consider under what circumstances and conditions post 1994 converted plantations may be able to be FSC certified."

Proposed by: Aisyah Sileuw, Daemeter Consulting

Seconded by: Grant Rosoman, Greenpeace New Zealand

Seconded by: Timothy Synnott, Estudios Forestales Synnott A.C.

Seconded by: Ed Krasny, Kimberley-Clark Corporation

Seconded by: Lewis C Fix, Domtar Corporation

Seconded by: Dale Kavalew, Proctor & Gamble

Comments

Under no circumstances should the FSC certify any plantations which are established on land which was forest during and after 1994.

The 2005 cut-off date for the RSPO may have been pragmatic, but the date should have been the same as that of FSC-certification if the RSPO is to be regarded as credible by end-users.

Indonesia's own certification scheme for "sustainable" palm oil - something of an oxymoron - will presumably endorse forest conversion subsequent to 2005.

Relaxing the FSC's rules would be a very slippery slope, whether in this context or to match the weak Timber Legality Assurance Schemes which are being negotiated for FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements and which ignore gross illegalities upstream from concession documents rubber-stamped by Ministers.

Further, it would substantially reduce the extent to which FSC-certification can be used to mitigate penalties under the amended Lacey Act and the EU's (Illegal Timber / Due Diligence)Regulation 995/2010. This will tend to negate any increase in market-share or market-penetration which the relaxation in FSC rules might intend. [What's the rush - the FSC's main competitor, the PEFC, is likely terminally to discredit its brand if it endorses the China National Forest Certification System]

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