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Korean and Japanese civic groups urge President Moon and Prime Minister Kishida to end support for biomass

Media Release: Korean and Japanese civic groups urge President Moon and Prime Minister Kishida to end support for biomass

Credit: Conservation North

October 21, 2021 

Despite enhancing their climate goals, Japan and South Korea are increasingly burning forest biomass for electricity, devastating forest ecosystems and carbon sinks globally, environmental groups point out. Advocates delivered a joint statement demanding the two countries’ governments shift away from the unsustainable fuel source.

As Japan and South Korea head to the COP26 climate change summit in a week, environmental groups from both countries urged for the end of large-scale biomass given its impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and forest ecosystems in a briefing organized by Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC), Global Environmental Forum (GEF), Mighty Earth, Biomass Industrial Society Network (BIN), and Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM).

“We are very concerned about the massive increase in demand by Korea and Japan for forest biomass and the impacts this is having on the health of forests in Canada, the Southeastern United States, Vietnam and beyond,” said Roger Smith, Japan Director for Mighty Earth, at the briefing on Thursday. This day kicked off the International Day of Action on Big Biomass, where groups in Australia, Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia highlighted biomass’s deforestation, climate, and biodiversity impacts through various campaign actions and events.

“Burning forest biomass to make electricity also worsens climate change by releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere, so we urge both countries to stop building more biomass power plants and apply strict greenhouse gas emissions limits to existing biomass-burning power plants,” Smith added.

In South Korea, electricity from biomass increased more than 75 percent annually between 2012 and 2019. Such growth has led to over 3 million tons of wood pellet imports and a dramatic increase in domestic wood pellet production. Similarly, Japan saw an increase in imported wood pellets from 72,000 tons to 2 million tons per year between 2012 and 2020.

Soojin Kim, senior researcher at SFOC, noted that Renewable Energy Certificates for biomass are main drivers of its rapid growth in Korea: “Biomass in Korea currently receives duplicate subsidies from both the energy and forest sectors, and support for biomass limits the development of renewables like solar and wind.”

Referring to data submitted to National Assembly Member Soyoung Lee by Korea South-East Power Co., Kim also expressed concerns about the sustainability of biomass: “Air pollution and carbon emissions per unit of energy from biomass are higher than for coal. Local residents are opposing construction plans of biomass power plants.” Kim added that both imported biomass and domestic pellets are often sourced from unsustainable forestry practices, such as clear cutting.

Miyuki Tomari from Biomass Industrial Society Network (BIN) explained that similar to Korea, the current institutional support in Japan promotes power generation using imported biomass: “Imported biomass does not lead to Japan’s energy self-sufficiency, has limited benefits for local communities, and tends to have higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.”

In a joint statement presented at the briefing, the environmental groups urged Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan and President Moon Jae-In of South Korea to implement renewable energy policies that protect forests before the upcoming COP26 summit. They called on the leaders to ensure that “all types of renewable energy contribute to near-term emissions reductions, and to show strong political commitments on forests and land-use through actions such as halting deforestation by 2030.”

“Importing over five million tons of biomass together a year, Korea and Japan are among the largest bioenergy importers. However, while the international community is accelerating the move to end unsustainable biomass, Korea and Japan are bucking this trend,” said Hansae Song, research associate at SFOC. “In order to avoid the stigma of being ‘biomass climate villains,’ and of course, to actually achieve 2050 carbon neutrality, it is urgent that the two governments change their renewable energy policies.”


For media inquiries, contact:

Roger Smith, Japan Director, Mighty Earth [email protected]

Euijin Kim, Communications Officer, Solutions for Our Climate, [email protected]


A recording of the briefing is available here:


The full NGO statement is available here:

Japan-South Korea NGO Statement on Biomass


Mighty Earth Activists in Brussels Urge the EU to Protect Threatened Habitats

Mighty Earth Activists in Brussels Urge the EU to Protect Threatened Habitats

October 21, 2021 

On the eve of the crucial COP26 climate negotiations, due to begin in Glasgow at the end of the month, Mighty Earth activists from four continents are meeting this week with officials from the European Commission, urging them to strengthen pending legislation aimed at preventing consumer goods linked to deforestation from entering the European Union. The delegation has also been meeting with major European companies, industry associations, and journalists.

Following a 2019 EU Communication, and a 2020 resolution by the European Parliament, the Commission has been developing legislative proposal that will make it illegal to place goods into the European market that have been produced by destroying forests. This will most likely include commodities such as soy, palm oil, wood, beef, coffee, and cocoa.

While this represents a major step forward in the fight against global deforestation, Mighty Earth is concerned that the proposals may contain significant loopholes, including overlooking key forest-risk commodities such as natural rubber and leather. Worryingly, the draft legislation also excludes agricultural commodities grown in other threatened habitats and massive carbon sinks, such as Brazil’s Cerrado, Indonesia’s peatlands, and El Pantanal wetland ecosystems shared by Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. Each one of these ecosystems have immense biodiversity importance and play a vital role in maintaining climate stability. Additionally, there is concern that human rights abuses associated with the production of commodities will also be ignored in this landmark legislation.

The “Fab five”

Mighty Earth’s five representatives – Gina Méndez, Nico Muzi, Julian Oram, Annisa Rahmawati, and Amourlaye Touré – have been bringing stories from the frontlines of deforestation and human rights abuses linked to agricultural production. Below, Gina, Annisa, Amourlaye and Julian explain why they have come to Brussels, and share the message they are bringing to the officials and companies they are meeting with.

Gina Méndez – Bolivia

I am from Bolivia, a country that in the last few years experienced the world’s second-highest rate of deforestation. Before we were one of the top three countries to protect our forest, now we hold the opposite position.

I am a former a Congresswoman, Minister of justice and human rights and the first female Mayor of Santa Cruz, my hometown, which is now the epicentre of deforestation in Bolivia.

Seeing the devastation of our incredible biodiverse forest made me determined to quit public administration after 15 years of service and start a citizens movement to protect and restore Bolivia’s forests from the devastating expansion of soy and cattle production. I named the movement El Llamado del Bosque. I ran a public campaign and gathered 600 signatures from national leaders of all walks of life, including journalists, historians, artists, indigenous leaders, businessmen and scientists.

Given the accelerating rate of forest destruction in my country – the Santa Cruz region lost 4 million hectares to the massive forest fires of 2019 – I see my visit to Brussels as a great opportunity to advocate for a strong EU anti-deforestation law. An ambitious EU regulation will provide our business leaders with a powerful incentive to produce soy, beef and leather without bulldozing our forests and savannahs. Thus, the upcoming EU law must include all types of beef (including processed beef) and leather, a co-product with huge profit margins for the industry.

We are also very concerned that by only protecting forests, soy and beef expansion in South America will shift from the Amazon basin and the dry forests of Gran Chaco to the savannahs of Brazil (Cerrado) and Bolivia, as well as El Pantanal wetlands. That’s why I am urging the cabinets of Commissioner SinkeviVius and Vice-President Timmermans to expand the scope of ecosystems to include savannas, peatlands and wetlands.

 Annisa Rahmawati – Indonesia

I took a long journey to come to Brussels all the way from Indonesia, a major producer of forest-risk commodities including palm oil and rubber. For many years, environmental activists in Southeast Asia have been calling on the industry to ensure that they protect our forests and other valuable ecosystems and uphold the human rights with the implementation of NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation) commitments.

The EU move to propose a law to break the link between consumption in Europe and deforestation worldwide could become a powerful catalyst to align public-private commitments in Indonesia and Malaysia. It would also send an important signal to the world that we need to protect natural ecosystems to tackle the climate crisis threatening our very existence.

Throughout my life, I have witnessed the fires and haze caused by the destruction of our forests and peatlands, and how it has made our people suffer. These fires were started to make way for palm oil plantations to cater to EU demand for the edible oil. We have learned that peatlands are essential ecosystems for our survival in this climate crisis, and thus need to be protected by the upcoming EU law. Otherwise, it could create a perverse incentive to shift palm oil production from the rainforest to peatlands.

Furthermore, the law also needs to protect local communities and tackle human rights abuses linked to commodity production in countries like Indonesia. Goods imported to Europe should not be tainted by environmental destruction or human rights violations.

 Amourlaye Touré – Ivory Coast

I live and work in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where I have worked on human rights and environmental justice issues for over 20 years.

In the space of a century, Côte d’Ivoire has lost 70% of its forests, mainly for agriculture, with cocoa (of which the country is the leading producer) as the primary cause of deforestation. The situation is almost identical in neighbouring Ghana, with both countries producing 65% of the world’s cocoa each year. The remaining little forest cover is under threat, despite official proclamations.

The Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) raised high hopes when it was launched in late 2017. However, its promises regarding the fight against any further deforestation are not being fulfilled in any meaningful way. Today, the situation is no longer tenable, especially since only about 6% of the annual $100 billion from cocoa goes to producers living in poverty. Alarming estimates have been made of when the Ivorian forest and certain endemic animal species will likely disappear.

There is an urgent need for the EU to act, especially since cashew nuts, of which Côte d’Ivoire is also the world’s leading producer, are attacking the savannah in the centre and the north. The country is thus caught between two deforestations at its southern (cocoa) and northern ends (cashew nuts). This threat is vital for the countries of Africa’s hinterland. Indeed, the greener, forested West Africa Atlantic coast countries constitute a barrier that was supposed to slow the advance of the desert.

Hence, we urge the EU to think holistically and cover all critical natural ecosystems and commodities with their anti-deforestation law.   

Julian Oram – UK

For the past twenty years, I have been working to promote more sustainable models of tropical agriculture and forest commodity production, having witnessed first-hand the devastation and terrible rights abuses associated with exploitative commodity production systems in many parts of the world. Since 2019 I’ve led Mighty Earth’s work on rubber, and more recently also on cocoa.

While cocoa is likely to be covered by the pending EU legislation, rubber is potentially excluded. This would be a terrible mistake. Over the past 20 years, rubber has been a major driver of tropical deforestation and wildlife habitat destruction, particularly in the Greater Mekong region of SE Asia. The EU has conducted an impact assessment which deemed rubber less significant than other tropical commodities. However, this assessment only considered unprocessed rubber imports, whereas the large majority of rubber imported into the EU is embedded in processed consumer goods, such as automobile tires.

From our work, we also know that rubber has been linked to terrible human rights abuses and extensive land-grabbing. With the EU’s demand for natural rubber set to rise steadily over the next decade, its crucial the legislation covers this essential and irreplaceable commodity.

 Nico Muzi – EU

I have been campaigning and communicating on climate change in Brussels for the past 15 years. My passion for land issues and connection with agriculture is deeply rooted:  I grew up in Argentina, watching my dad rearing cattle and planting wheat to the south of Buenos Aires.

My passion is clearly shared by a large proportion of EU consumers. A record 1.2 million citizens urged the Commission to go beyond forest protection and include natural ecosystems such as savannas, wetlands and peatlands in the law – the second most participated public consultation in the history of the EU.

Businesses also support strong regulation: more than 70 big companies such as supermarket chains Carrefour and Lidl, food processors like Danone and Ferrero (and even Groupe Avril, France’s largest animal feed producer) urged the EU to protect other threatened habitats and protect human rights.

Unfortunately, the leaked EU anti-deforestation law has several loopholes big enough to drive a bulldozer through! These are:

  • Exclusion of natural ecosystems such as savannas, peatlands and wetlands
  • Exclusion of top forest-risk commodities and co-products: rubber, leather and processed beef
  • Exclusion of international human rights standards, especially customary land rights
  • Weakened liability

If Vice President Timmermans and Commissioner SinkeviVius are serious about protecting and restoring the world’s forests and other key biodiversity hotspots, the upcoming law must close those loopholes. European citizens and local communities in the frontlines of deforestation will thank them for their service to humanity, wildlife and the global climate. The Commission is clearly not alone in this fight.


U.S. Companies’ Complicity in Illegal Deforestation

Today, Mighty Earth joined with a number of civil society organizations in commending Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) for introducing the FOREST Act, a landmark plan to require importers of high-risk agricultural commodities and products to analyze supply chains and show evidence that their imports are not contributing to illegal deforestation. The Senate bill has several cosponsors including Senators Warren (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ), Heinrich (D-NM), Coons (D-DE), Merkeley (D-OR), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Murphy (D-CT). The joint press release announcing the introduction is here, and an open letter from Mighty Earth and many other civil society organizations is here.


In response, Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth, released the following statement:

“It’s just common sense that companies should only sell legally-produced deforestation free goods to Americans. Most Americans don’t want to worry that biting into a Big Mac is endangering sloths or jaguars.   In an age of transparency and accountability, it’s simply no longer acceptable for companies to claim ignorance about the origins of their products. It’s not okay for U.S. companies to be complicit in deforestation.”

“Senator Schatz’s FOREST Act is a landmark piece of legislation that would require companies to understand where their products come from. And it will help them get there: the financial and technical help in this plan will go a long way toward rebuilding the sort of international partnerships we need to tackle the climate crisis.”


Líderes nacionales y organizaciones internacionales unen fuerzas en auxilio de los bosques bolivianos

English

600 líderes de Bolivia que firmaron entre 2017 y 2021 El Pacto del Bosque reciben la adhesión de más de 20 organizaciones internacionales que coinciden en la necesidad de encontrar soluciones reales para frenar la alarmante deforestación en Bolivia (Informe Fundación para la Conservación del Bosque Chiquitano - FCBC), causa principal de los incendios forestales que arrasaron con 9,7 millones de hectáreas en el país (Informe Fundación Amigos de la Naturaleza - FAN). El Bosque Seco Chiquitano localizado en el Departamento de Santa Cruz, el más grande del continente, ha sido severamente afectado por la deforestación ligada al desarrollo de actividades agropecuarias extensivas y el incremento en asentamientos irregulares (Deforestación Bajo Paraguá).

Las organizaciones internacionales Action for Bolivia, Birdlife International, Canopée – Forests Vivantes, Changing Markets, Comissão Pastoral da Terra - Brasil,  Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), Dogwood Alliance, Earthworm Foundation, Envol Vert, France Nature Environnement (FNE), Global Witness, Justice and Environment, National Wildlife Federation, Notre Affaire à Tous, NRDC, Mighty Earth, Rainforest Foundation USA, Reclaim Finance, Rights and Resources Initiative, Seattle Avocats, Tropenbos International y ZERO - Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável unen sus voces en auxilio de los bosques bolivianos adhiriéndose al Pacto del Bosque.

El Pacto del Bosque representa la profunda preocupación que tienen ante la deforestación, líderes de opinión y personalidades de reconocida de trayectoria en Bolivia, entre los que figuran: periodistas, historiadores, artistas, jóvenes independientes, ambientalistas, líderes de pueblos indígenas, políticos, empresarios, cívicos, científicos y académicos y constituye el respaldo a la Plataforma El Llamado del Bosque para buscar acuerdos, alianzas estratégicas y gestionar acciones para conservar el patrimonio natural del país.

Gina Méndez, fundadora de la iniciativa ciudadana El Llamado del Bosque, comentó: “Necesitamos industrias que oferten productos agropecuarios producidos de manera sostenible cuidando el equilibrio de los ecosistemas, dado que existe un mercado internacional emergente para estos commodities - libre de fuego y deforestación - que tienen alta demanda y rentabilidad. Es importante aprender de experiencias exitosas y acuerdos entre gobierno, industria y sociedad civil en Sudamérica que lograron detener la destrucción del patrimonio natural sin socavar el potencial productivo de los países agroexportadores.”

Existen experiencias exitosas de acuerdos entre gobierno, industria y sociedad civil en Sudamérica que lograron detener la destrucción del patrimonio natural sin socavar el potencial exportador de los países agroexportadores.

En el año 2006, las principales comercializadoras de soya de Brasil, el Gobierno brasileño y la sociedad civil firmaron un acuerdo para evitar la expansión de la soya en la selva amazónica y así conservar el pulmón del mundo. Gracias al acuerdo, el área ocupada por el cultivo de soya en la Amazonia brasileña se duplicó, de 1,35 a 3,65 millones de hectáreas (2008-2015), sin que esto haya significado más deforestación, en razón a que la producción se expandió en tierras ya desmontadas.

“Luego del apoyo masivo de personalidades importantes de la sociedad boliviana y el espaldarazo de organizaciones ambientalistas de Europa y Estados Unidos, invitamos públicamente a la industria agropecuaria del país, ANAPO, CAO y FEGASACRUZ, a que se unan a este diálogo abierto que busca una solución duradera para un problema común urgente: la destrucción entre otros, del Bosque Seco Chiquitano,” el bosque más grande y mejor conservado del continente, concluyó Gina Méndez.

Europa mira atenta a la producción agropecuaria responsable y libre de deforestación para satisfacer la creciente exigencia de sus consumidores.

“El apetito voraz del consumidor europeo está alimentando la destrucción de las selvas y bosques de Sudamérica. Sin embargo, gracias al trabajo de organizaciones de la sociedad civil, el ciudadano europeo es cada vez más consciente del impacto negativo de su consumo y está comenzado a exigir a supermercados y restaurantes productos libres de deforestación. Creemos que los sectores agrícolas y ganaderos en Bolivia tienen la oportunidad de producir sin devastar el Bosque Seco Chiquitano y otras áreas boscosas de gran biodiversidad,” subrayó Nico Muzi, director para Europa de la organización ambiental global Mighty Earth, representante de una de las organizaciones firmantes.


Bolivia leaders and international organizations join forces to rescue Bolivian forests

Español

Over the past five years, 600 civil society leaders and Bolivian organizations signed El Pacto del Bosque. Today they are joined by more than 20 international organizations that agree on the urgent need to find real solutions to stop the alarming deforestation rate in Bolivia (FCBC Report). Deforestation is the leading cause of the massive forest fires that ravaged more than 9 million hectares of protected national parks and forests in the Department of Santa Cruz between 2019 and 2020 (FAN Report). The Chiquitano Dry Forest, the largest tropical dry forest on the continent, has been severely affected by the deforestation linked to agriculture and cattle ranching and the increase in irregular human settlements.

Among the different international organizations endorsing El Pacto del Bosque are Action for Bolivia, Birdlife International, Canopée - Forets Vivantes, Changing Markets, Comissão Pastoral da Terra - Brasil, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), Dogwood Alliance, Earthworm Foundation, Envol Vert, France Nature Environnement (FNE), Global Witness, Justice and Environment, National Wildlife Federation, Notre Affaire à Tous, NRDC, Mighty Earth, Rainforest Foundation USA, Reclaim Finance, Rights and Resources Initiative, Seattle Avocats, Tropenbos International, and ZERO - Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável.

The alarming deforestation rate in Bolivia has raised the interest of well-known personalities, including journalists, historians, artists, environmentalists, indigenous leaders, businessmen, citizens, and scientists who have joined forces behind El Pacto del Bosque. This initiative is led by the grassroots organization El Llamado del Bosque, which urgently seeks to find agreements, build strategic alliances and engage in actions intended to conserve the country's natural heritage.

"We need industry to offer sustainable agricultural products that preserve fragile ecosystems. There’s a growing international market for these commodities, free of fires and deforestation, with high demand and high profit margins. It’s important to learn from successful examples of agreements between government, industry, and civil society in South America that have managed to stop the destruction of the country's natural heritage and biodiversity without undermining the country’s' agro-export potential," said Gina Méndez, founder of the organization El Llamado del Bosque.

In 2006, the leading soy traders in Brazil, the Brazilian government and civil society signed an agreement to prevent the expansion of soy production in the Amazon rainforest. This agreement allowed for the expansion of soybean cultivation, doubling from 1.35 to 3.65 million hectares (2008-2015), without causing further deforestation since production only expanded on to previously cleared land.

"With massive support from significant Bolivian stakeholders, and now with the ample support of environmental organizations in Europe and the United States, we publicly invite the country's soybean and cattle sector bodies, ANAPO, CAO and FEGASACRUZ, to join this open dialogue that seeks a long-lasting solution for an urgent problem: the destruction of the Chiquitano Dry Forest, the largest and best-conserved forest of the continent," concluded Méndez.

European companies are also beginning to closely monitor for responsible and deforestation-free agricultural production to meet the growing demand of its consumers.

"The voracious appetite of European consumers is fueling the destruction of the jungles and forests of South America. However, and thanks to the work of civil society organizations, European citizens are increasingly aware of the negative impacts of their consumption patterns. They are beginning to demand deforestation-free products from supermarkets and restaurants. We believe that Bolivian farmers and cattle ranchers have a unique opportunity to protect the Chiquitano Dry Forest and guarantee a deforestation-free production," said Nico Muzi, Europe Director of the global environmental organization Mighty Earth, one of the signatory organizations.


Retailer Scorecard 2021

Easter is one of the biggest chocolate buying seasons. Mighty Earth and the National Wildlife Federation in the USA and Be Slavery Free in the Netherlands and Australia; assessed retailers from around the world on their contribution to driving positive change in the chocolate and cocoa industry.  Brands and processors were ranked separately in an earlier release.

The retailers selected, 36 in all, are some of the largest and most influential in Europe and the UK, the US, Brazil, Australia/New Zealand, and other chocolate consuming countries. Those retailers selected for this ranking have a choice: they can either take a large toll on the farmers and ecosystems in cocoa growing regions around the world or make a big positive impact for people and the planet.

Retailers and supermarkets make the most money in the chocolate value chain-- taking at least 40% of the price consumers pay for a bar of chocolate. These super beneficiaries need to own their responsibility for the cocoa sector and not just for their own branded products but also for the procurement policies for the other chocolates products they stock.  The potential for a truly industry wide, farmer to consumer, sustainability movement exists.

But many of these retailers have thus far refused to engage in relevant ethical trade platforms such as the Retailer Cocoa Coalition or the Cocoa and Forest Initiative or opened up to engage more broadly with civil society on their cocoa supply chains.

Some of these same retailers have made progress with their commitment to sustainability in other commodities-- albeit spotty, but have been slow to extend such measures to cocoa.

Retailers like Rewe, Ahold Delhaize, Coop Switzerland, Sainsbury’s, Woolworths (Australia) Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord stand out when compared to their colleagues. Supermarkets in the US need to do much more to ensure the sustainability of their cocoa products they sell.

You can find the full methodology on the Retailer’s Easter Scorecard here.


Ivorian Ministry of Forest Pledges Progress on Joint Monitoring Program

In November 2017, the cocoa industry and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire pledged to halt deforestation caused by cocoa and "adopt a transparent satellite monitoring system whose results are independently validated and which provides an early warning of deforestation, quickly supplemented by field verification. This system [was] to be made available to the public immediately after the signing of the Common Framework for Action (CFA) so that all stakeholders can measure and monitor progress towards the overall deforestation target". Three years later, this has still not been achieved. 
 
It is in that context that Mighty Earth welcomes with great satisfaction the Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests' announcement, seconded by the President of the World Cocoa Foundation, of the rapid implementation of the long promised joint monitoring of deforestation and remedial measures. This announcement was made on February 25 during the last Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) steering committee in which the two senior officials took part, along with 66 other participants. Joint monitoring is one of the CFI’s major commitments, and Mighty Earth has constantly called for its effective implementation. The launch of the Cocoa Accountability Map in 2020, recently updated in February 2021, is precisely an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.