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It would be nice to be able to report that negotiations are moving forward apace but, unfortunately, they’re not.

This morning, we sat through another lengthy discussion about the proposals put forward by the North America countries and Micronesia to phase out HFCs. While supportive delegations such as the EU agreed with the US that a phase-out is a moral imperative and argued that it would help drive technical innovation, China and India spent the entire session playing semantic ping-pong.

This is what a 'side event' can look like (c) EIA

Arguments of varying degrees of sophistication were trotted out to demonstrate that the Montreal Protocol is not the forum to deal with an HFC phase-out, because there is no legal footing for it to do so (a claim heavily contested by many Parties here); because it would undermine the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol (!), or because not enough scientific research has been carried out into alternatives to HFCs (it’s worth noting that both China and India blocked subsequent attempts to remedy this).

What it all boils down to is protection of vested interests – both China and India are defending the commercial interests of their domestic F-gas industries (which, lest it be forgotten, have already earned hundreds of millions of euros for HFC-23 offsets under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism – and, to a certain extent, political grandstanding and positioning for the global climate talks. It’s very frustrating to sit here and listen to the debate go around and around in circles when an HFC phase-out is clearly the most immediate and cost-effective prospect for combating climate change in the short-term.

Mealtimes here are very perfunctory – in fact, we haven’t sat down to a hot meal since Sunday – all the more so as food and drink are strictly forbidden in the meeting rooms (a rule enforced by zealous security guards on every corner). So, after a five-minute refuelling stop, we headed to a ‘side event’ (UN jargon for a short workshop) on the European Union’s F-gas Regulation. This was organised by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), the rather misleading name of the European Heating Cooling and Refrigeration Industry’s trade association, based in Brussels.

At the event, EPEE representatives and the refrigerant manufacturer Daikin sang the praises of the F-Gas Regulation, which essentially relies on weak controls to prevent leakage during installation, operation and disposal of equipment. Quite apart from the consideration that taking a containment and recovery approach to HFCs (rather than mandating a phase out) is simply storing up trouble for the future, it’s pretty obvious that the F-Gas Regulation in its current form is simply unworkable. The fact is that, by the industry’s own admission, the Regulation is not being taken seriously.

We expect the F-gas industry to fight tooth and nail to prevent any ambitious changes to the Regulation, which is currently under discussion. As far as we’re concerned, supporting a global phase-down of HFCs in the Montreal Protocol – which the EU is doing very forcefully here – goes hand-in-hand with a convincing domestic policy on HFCs – which the EU does not yet have.

Natasha Hurley

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EIA Campaigners will be blogging on a daily basis from the IWC.

Day 4 – Thursday 14th July – The Last Day

 

UK commissioner speaks to the transparency proposal. Credit EIA.

UK commissioner speaks to the transparency proposal.

After the great result on the UK governance proposal, we sped through some other business last night – agreeing important items such as the Audited Accounts, the budget and other financial and administrative business.

The report of the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Sub Committee report was agreed with very little controversy, other than an exchange of views between India and the Russian Federation, after India called for aboriginal subsistence quotas to be reduced in the future. Next year will not be so easy as the catch limits for these hunts will be due for renewal. A resolution was adopted by consensus agreeing to a work plan to prepare for next year’s discussions on these catch limits.

Next up was the eternally controversial request by Japan for an IWC endorsed quota for four of its coastal communities. Japan has made this request every year since the moratorium on commercial whaling was implemented 25 years ago. Whilst Japan had a placeholder on the agenda for a proposal relating to this matter, it stated that it decided in the interest of cooperation not to make this request.

NGOs at work at the IWC. Credit EIA.

NGOs at work at the IWC. Credit EIA.

Discussions on the Future of the IWC have dominated the IWC for the past 3 years, including several intersessional meetings. Last year discussions were abandoned and a year’s pause was promised for reflection. This year a Resolution was tabled by the US and New Zealand calling for further cooperative work. After some disagreement on proposed revisions to the resolution, it was withdrawn with a ‘sort of’ agreement to work cooperatively together in future. It is very clear to EIA what the future of the IWC is – focusing maximum effort and resources on effectively addressing the myriad of threats to whales, dolphins and porpoises including climate change, pollution, ship strikes, entanglement and marine debris.

The day concluded with a most enjoyable reception hosted by a coalition of NGOs. Delegates had time to relax, enjoy some delicious food, and friendly chat. A good end to a hard day.

Thursday dawned as the final day of this annual meeting. It started with discussion of a resolution on safety at sea, proposed by Japan (in response to Sea Shepherd’s campaign in the Southern Ocean). Having withdrawn the coastal whaling quota, this was Japan’s key issue, and despite the fact that the IWC is not the correct forum to discuss safety at sea issues, delegates agreed the Resolution in the continuing spirit of compromise and consensus. Unfortunately, that spirit didn’t last.

Japan walks out. Credit EIA

Japan walks out.

For ten years Latin American countries have been calling for the IWC to agree a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic to contribute to greater protection of depleted whale populations, investment in scientific research, and creation of local cetacean watching opportunities with the associated economic benefits. One NGO from each side of the debate was permitted to make a presentation on the subject – some small compensation for the proposal on NGO participation having been removed from yesterday’s agreement.

Whilst the majority of IWC contracting governments supported the proposed sanctuary Iceland, Saint Kitts and Cameroun said they would block a consensus. With regret, Brazil decided to call for a vote, however Japan then stated that they and all ‘sustainable use’ countries would leave the room so there would be no quorum (a quorum is the minimum number of members who must be present for decisions to be made – IWC rules state that “Attendance by a majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum”). Japan stated that their understanding was that with 89 members, 45 should form a quorum. He further stated “..this is not a hostile action, we only do this to avoid voting”. Although many countries urged Japan and others not to take such drastic steps, after the Chair of the Commission asked for a vote to take place, Japan, Iceland, Norway and all other pro-whaling countries left the room.

Pro-whaling countries stage walk out to block whale sanctuary. Credit EIA.

Pro-whaling countries stage walk out to block whale sanctuary.

That was at 12:00 and at 8.30pm, some eight & a half hours later, Commissioners finally dragged themselves back to the plenary room, having agreed a short text which explained what had happened (in very diplomatic words which made Japan, Iceland and their allies look much more reasonable than they actually were). The text essentially agreed to form an intersessional group to look further into the rules of procedure, and to leave the sanctuary agenda item open with its discussion to be the first substantive item at the beginning of IWC64. In effect, Japan, Iceland and others successfully blocked the democratic right of the Latin Americans to have their sanctuary proposal voted on.

The chair then asked for adoption of the Conservation Committee report, Conservation Management Plans, Whale watching, Environment and Health Issues, Small cetaceans and other items under the Scientific Committee report with no discussion (and no NGO interventions). A frankly depressing end to a meeting that had started so well.

The only highlight was the announcement by the Secretary that a group of NGOs had contributed more than £10,000 to the small cetacean fund and this was followed up by generous contributions by Italy and France.

It was then agreed that the tricky issue electing a Chair and Vice-Chair would be done by post, and a short presentation was given by Panama, who will host IWC64. The finale of the meeting was a standing ovation to Fiona and Bernard from the IWC Secretariat. They are both taking retirement after more than two decades each of loyal, hard working and cheerful service to the IWC. They will be greatly missed. The IWC Secretariat work tirelessly all year to ensure our meetings run smoothly and always have a smile for everyone. Our best wishes to Fiona and Bernard and thanks to all the staff for everything they do for the organisation.

Vicky - probably everyone's favourite delegate... Credit EIA

Vicky - probably everyone's favourite delegate... Credit EIA

It’s hard not to feel discouraged that so much of the time, money and effort that we put into whale and dolphin conservation can be so easily sabotaged by the underhand tactics of just a few countries. But while the conservation work might not have had the discussion at IWC63 that it deserved, the work will still go on and we will be ready next year to insist that whale conservation is discussed as a priority issue at the start of the meeting. And we were also pleased that our report had encouraged a number of countries to forcefully criticise Iceland’s whaling and whale trade at the IWC meeting – something that is long overdue.

***

Day 3 – Wednesday 13th July

Despite having just two days of the meeting left yet three days of work to do, discussions on the UK’s governance proposal lasted the whole day.

Each proposed change was picked apart, particularly by Iceland, St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda. One of the key points of contention was the proposal that payments of membership contributions must be by bank transfer only and not by cash. This simple, best practice payment rule would go a long way to counter the accusations of corruption which have dominated the IWC in recent years.

Frustration ruled and by lunchtime it was agreed that a small group of the most vocal speakers of the day, plus the UK, would meet to hammer out an agreement. Three hours later, the meeting resumed and a revised document was presented to the meeting.

Clare Perry at the IWC. Credit EIA

Clare Perry at the IWC. Credit EIA

Finally, agreement was reached and the revised proposal was adopted by consensus. Some compromises had been made and, notably, the attempt to improve IWC observer participation through the Rules was withdrawn early on in the meeting. But it was still a hugely important move forward for the IWC and something that even at the start of the day seemed unlikely to be resolved.

One of the key changes for us is that, at last, the Scientific Committee report will be made available on the IWC’s website within 14 days of the conclusion of the Scientific Committee meeting. Up until now, we have not been allowed to see the report until 10am on the first day of the Commission meeting. At this point, most of the Resolutions and other decision texts are already in play, we are run off our feet trying to talk to delegates and circulate our reports and it’s impossible to read and absorb a report which is usually around 100 pages long.

Despite the pain, the IWC has made a good decision with this package of changes to the Rules of Procedure. EIA pays tribute to the UK delegation and, in particular, to Jolyon Thompson who stewarded the proposal through with eloquence and determination.

At 6.50pm in the evening of day three we started to get on with the substantive issues to be discussed, quickly finishing the Finance and Admin report and starting to look at aboriginal subsistence whaling, which is ongoing as I write … it will be a long night.

 ***

Day 2 – Tuesday 12th July

On Tuesday, the IWC discussed ‘financial and administrative matters’, which was actually a lot more interesting than you might think, and certainly crucial to the way the IWC carries out its work.

The biggest proposal on the table at this year’s meeting is one from the UK to improve the governance and effectiveness of operations of the IWC. Part of the proposal aims to bring in measures which can help eliminate the corruption that has allegedly been rife within the organisation and was highlighted by a Sunday Times exposé last year – for example, countries would no longer be able to pay their contributions in cash but would have to pay via “bank transfer from an account belonging to the Contracting Government or to a state institution of that Government”.

IWC held in Jersey this year. Credit EIAIn addition, this proposal would ensure key documents such as the Scientific Committee report are available to observers, and that decisions are swiftly translated and available in the other two working languages of the Commission (French and Spanish).

The most controversial aspect of the UK proposal, however, was to do with the participation of observers (including NGOs such as EIA) in the IWC. For years, observers have had no speaking rights at the IWC, even though the Rules of Procedure actually allow us to speak. In recent years, there has been some attempt to improve this situation, with NGOs given a half-hour to present a limited number of views, usually at the end of the meeting when all the decisions have been taken. As you can imagine, with many conservation NGOs attending the IWC it has been a taxing and time-consuming task just to agree which NGOs can speak and on which issues. This initiative from the UK would bring the IWC up to some really basic standards which are already common practice in many multilateral environmental agreements.

UK Minister Richard Beynon was on hand to appeal to IWC member governments to adopt the proposals, which are not anti- or pro-whaling but a bare minimum required to show the world that the IWC continues to be a functional and effective body. In order to bring Denmark (part of the European Union, but basically representing the whaling interests of the Faroes & Greenland), the UK dropped the section on observer participation so the proposal could be presented by the EU group as a whole.

Photo of yesterday when the EU were trying to deal with St Kitts and Nevis / Russian Federation disruption of the discussion of their proposal. Credit Milko Schvartzman

Photo of yesterday when the EU were trying to deal with St Kitts and Nevis / Russian Federation disruption of the discussion of their proposal. Credit Milko Schvartzman

Despite these efforts to compromise, Saint Kitts & Nevis, the Russian Federation and other pro-whaling delegations successfully disrupted proceedings, which forced a private meeting of Commissioners to be held near the end of the day. The meeting then closed, with the promise of a revised proposal, from the UK, to be discussed first thing on Wednesday morning.

 ***

Day 1 – Monday 11th July

EIA is at the International Whaling Commission’s Annual Meeting taking place in Jersey this week. We were here all last week attending working group meetings (which discuss some of the substantive detail of many issues relating to whales) but now it is time for the decisions and politics.

Two really good things happened today – and I can honestly say I can’t recall that happening on the first day of an IWC meeting for many years. First, South African Commissioner Herman Oosthuizen agreed to chair the meeting. We were left without a Chair or Vice-Chair for the Commission at the end of last year’s meeting, and clearly this is a huge problem if the IWC is to continue developing its key role in the global management and conservation of whales and other cetaceans. Herman is greatly respected, has wide experience of the IWC and is open to fair and constructive participation by NGOs, unlike some delegates here who would rather conduct their business behind closed doors.

Minke Whale. © Joanne Weston | Dreamstime.com

Minke Whale. © Joanne Weston | Dreamstime.com

The second surprise was when we came to discussion of the Scientific Committee’s deliberations on the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) catch limits for North Atlantic fin whale. Now the Scientific Committee has not actually been asked to calculate catch limits because, as we all know, there is a ban on commercial whaling. However, since Iceland is pursuing unilateral rogue whaling of fin and minke whales, the Scientific Committee has been looking at which variants of the RMP would be appropriate to be able to provide advice on the sustainability of catches. Since 2010, the Scientific Committee has been clear in its advice that a catch of 46 fin whales is the currently acceptable catch limit – compare this to Iceland’s 2009 and 2010 catches of fin whales, which were 125 and 148 fin whales respectively. Despite this, last year no countries drew attention to the fact that Iceland’s catch was clearly unsustainable because all countries (other than Iceland) were attempting to avoid controversial issues in the hope that the IWC could agree a compromise whaling deal which would somehow satisfy both anti- and pro-whaling countries.

With the compromise whaling proposal dead in the water, it was refreshing to hear a number of countries speak eloquently in support of precautionary science in the conservation of whales. Monaco kicked off the debate by drawing attention to the fact that Iceland’s catches of fin whales are much higher than sustainable limits, and was supported by the UK, New Zealand, Mexico, US and Australia. The New Zealand Commissioner called Iceland’s whaling as risky, inappropriate and unlawful.

Renegade Whaling. Image Credit Jonas FreydalEIA came to the IWC with a new report on Iceland’s whaling and trade in whale products, determined to ensure that the IWC member countries recognise and respond to Iceland’s whaling, so this was a great start to the meeting and we’ll continue to lobby countries to pressure Iceland.

Other issues covered included a UK proposal to progress work on welfare and ethics. It was disappointing that Norway refused to participate but the work will go forward nonetheless and the UK will be working hard to try to persuade Norway and other whaling nations to contribute in the future.

The meeting started with a welcoming address from the Government of Jersey and it is a pleasure to stay on this beautiful island (even though we are basically sitting in a cave most of the time). Somehow Jersey’s eccentricities well suit the slightly eccentric IWC that continues to protect hundreds of thousands of great whales with the international ban on commercial whaling.

Twenty-five years after its implementation, the ongoing ban on whaling is still vital to the conservation of whales and we will continue to work hard every year to ensure it is maintained and to improve the effectiveness of the IWC.

Clare Perry

Clare Perry

Senior Campaigner

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As regular visitors to this blog will be aware, as part of our Global Environment Campaign, EIA has been fighting an ongoing battle against the illegal trade in ozone depleting substances for many years now.

An unfortunate – yet avoidable – consequence of the global phase out of first CFCs, and now HCFCs, black market trade in ODS has the potential to wreak havoc on the ozone layer. It is the Achilles heel of the Montreal Protocol – the most successful environmental treaty to date – and as such, requires urgent and decisive action.

Our illegal trade investigations have taken us to many far-flung destinations over the years. Few, however as far-flung as Mongolia, a name, which for me at least, had always been endowed with a certain mystique.

Mongolian gers. Credit EIA

Mongolian gers. Credit EIA

However, when it comes to tackling ozone depletion, no country is too remote, which is how, a couple of weeks ago, EIA came to co-host the Summit with the Private Sector on Trade in Ozone Depleting Substances with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Ulaanbaatar.

It seemed fitting that an ozone summit should take place in Mongolia, Land of the Blue Sky, where rather than being an abstraction, the “environment” is central to the country’s national identity. Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia has been subject to a range of foreign influences (as the euphemism goes) over the years – and indeed conquered vast tracts of Central Asia and Europe itself back in the heyday of Genghis Khan.

The gobi desert from the Trans-Siberian railway that connects Moscow with Beijing.

The gobi desert from the Trans-Siberian railway that connects Moscow with Beijing.

Now an independent and fully fledged democracy, Mongolia has been behind some novel initiatives in recent years, including the convening of a Cabinet Meeting on Climate Change, which was held in the Gobi Desert in December 2010. Although a sparsely populated country, deforestation, overgrazing and the depletion of water resources are leading to the expansion of the Gobi at a rapid rate of knots, imperilling the livelihoods of the herders, who still make up around a third of the population. Air pollution is also a huge problem in cities, where coal and wood-burning stoves are used by a majority of the population for heating and cooking. In addition to this, plentiful supplies of raw materials including coal, copper, tungsten, phosphates, nickel, zinc, fluorspar, gold and silver make it an Eldorado for mining companies.

Mongolian customs official checking ODS canister for purity. Credit EIA.

Mongolian customs official checking ODS canister for purity. Credit EIA.

While Mongolia has no domestic production of ozone depleting substances to speak of, its customs officials are well versed in the challenges posed by illegal trade in ODS – as were the many other national officials present at the Summit, hailing from as far afield as Thailand, Malaysia, China and Indonesia. Along with representatives from multinational chemical manufacturers, and international organisations including UNIDO and the World Customs Organisation (WCO), they spent three days discussing how to avert a massive spike in illegal ODS trade as developed and developing countries implement their HCFC phase out – whose differential nature (developed countries are on schedule for a total phase-out by 2020, developing countries have until 2030) only increases the risks of part of the market going underground. The resulting “UB 2.0 Declaration” lists concrete actions to help stamp out illegal trade and will be available online shortly. EIA and UNEP will also be bringing out a Risk Assessment of Illegal Trade in HCFCs within the next few weeks – watch this space for details on both of those.

As mentioned above, illegal trade has been a problem for as long as initiatives to rid the planet of ozone depleting chemicals have existed. At one point, a staggering 20% of trade in CFCs was estimated to be illegal. That’s a sobering figure, but what’s even more sobering is the realisation that with the HCFC phase-out, the problem could turn out to be considerably worse. This is mainly because of the comparatively more rapid pre-baseline increase in developing countries’ consumption of HCFCs, which is currently growing at 15% per annum.

In the past few years, we’ve seen increasing incidences of HCFC smuggling related to the developed country phase out, including high-profile seizures in Florida and evidence of criminal activity in Southern Europe, where it is estimated that up to 10 small ships a day are ferrying small consignments of HCFCs between ports bordering the EU where trade controls are not in place, and ports within the EU where import of virgin HCFC is banned.

Professor Adyasuren Tsokhio, Director of Mongolia’s National Ozone Authority and Mr. Batsuuri Nantsag, State Secretary of Nature, Environment and Tourism listen to Mr. Atul Bagai Senior Regional Coordinator United Nations Environment Program Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Credit EIA

Professor Adyasuren Tsokhio, Director of Mongolia’s National Ozone Authority and Mr. Batsuuri Nantsag, State Secretary of Nature, Environment and Tourism listen to Mr. Atul Bagai Senior Regional Coordinator United Nations Environment Program Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Credit EIA

Not to paint too bleak a picture, there are some great initiatives out there to help stem the flood of illegal ODS trade. One of these – the eccentrically-named “Project Sky Hole Patching II” – deserves a special mention. Originally an initiative of a group of Asia Pacific countries, it led to a total of 26 seizures, amounting to 640 tonnes of ODS and over 600 pieces of equipment containing ODS, over a 6-month period in 2010. Improved cooperation between customs authorities, notably through the “informal prior and informed consent” – or iPIC – system has also proved its worth over the years. However, even ground-breaking initiatives such as these look paltry in the face of a potential tidal wave of illegal ODS trade as the HCFC phase out begins to take hold. It’s time to face up to the fact that illegal trade exists and that we need to do something about it. Fast.

Natasha Hurley

Global Environment Campaigner

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Saving the world's forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years. Credit EIA.

Saving the worlds forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years.

Sitting on the Eurostar, once again on my way to Brussels and this time for what should be a defining moment for our campaign against illegal logging, I have been thinking about the amount of time I have spent in meetings and how much I have learned over the years about getting legislation through the European Union.  

As campaigners, we’re supposed to be flexible enough to take whatever is thrown at us, and turn complicated and over-talked issues into something anyone can understand. But nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with when I first went to Brussels. I have sat through meetings where I have literally not understood a single thing that has been said to me as to why something could not possibly happen. This, I have now learned, is the whole idea. A lot of governments I have lobbied over the years have used a similar practice and, drawing on that experience, I decided that if we wanted something to go through and if we couldn’t do it directly, then we would go over, under and around ’the problem’ in our own way.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak to a hearing on forestry issues, which at that time did not have illegal logging issues on the top of its agenda but instead focused on forest issues that were going nowhere. I had been invited by Europe-based NGO’s to talk about our campaign to a large group of Commission representatives from about five different Directorates. (Ministries).  I had no idea what I was walking into. The Commission was keeping everyone focused on some issue that was going around in circles and seemed totally pointless to me, but I was told “this is a consultation and it’s formal, so we need to ensure what we are saying goes on the record”. I sat there with huge admiration for my colleagues as they continued to make their point to the grey suits sitting on a panel in front of us in an enormously large room. Then it was my turn.

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

“Europe has made a lot of money from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber for so long now that it’s become the norm.” I said. “Traders and importers know who the bad guys are. Our desire for cheap tropical timber means that we’re fuelling corruption, ensuring the middle men make all the money and there’s no chance for anyone wanting to work legally, let alone sustainably. It’s ensuring that those who do the right thing are unable to work with a level playing field and only those who have connections are able to make real profits. Producer countries are losing millions in lost state revenue and we’re creating a new breed of timber barons. Let me tell you how this works in the case of Indonesia.”

“Excuse me, but this is not on the agenda,” said a grey suit.

“Really? I am going to continue because it should be on your agenda.”

And I did. Our main objective in Europewas to have a law that would make it an offence to supply and sell illegally sourced timber. With illegal logging rampant in Indonesia at that time, the EU needed to take some responsibility. It sounded so simple.

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak held a debriefing on the conclusion of an accord between Indonesia and the EU called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia has agreed to implement a credible timber licensing scheme to eliminate illegally produced timber in its trade with the EU. Although this is a milestone for Indonesia, it is the way this agreement was reached that is so extraordinary. Read more about the new VPA.

Over the years, the divide between stakeholders was huge. But yesterday, as we spoke of the journey we have all taken to get to this point, emotions ran high. Compared to the meeting I first went to in Europe all those years ago, this was something entirely different and the feeling of ownership from everyone made the difference.

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

Senior Campaigner

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This year has certainly got off to a flying start, with all of last year’s campaigning on the HFC-23 issue about to come to a head. This Friday, European Countries will vote on a proposed regulation to ban the use of HFC and other industrial gas credits in Europe’s carbon markets from January 2013. If successful this regulation will change the face of the world’s largest carbon market and end the scandalous subsidising of Chinese and Indian chemical companies by European consumers.

Credit EIA

Fin at the open hearing at European Parliament last Wednesday

In a final attempt to ensure the vote goes well Clare Perry and myself took a day trip to Brussels last Wednesday to speak at an open hearing in the European Parliament. The event brought together high level speakers, politicians and policy makers in order to give a rounded view on the future of these credits, with a presentation from Connie Hedegaard, the European Commission’s Climate Commissioner.

EIA together with UK NGO Sandbag was invited to speak on behalf of civil society and we took the opportunity to remind the audience that removing HFC-23 credits from carbon markets would help clean development in poorer countries. Despite a general acceptance of the need to restrict these credits some companies with vested financial interests in the projects would like to see the timing of the ban delayed to allow many million more fake credits onto Europe’s carbon markets. We warned how this will undermine Europe’s international climate negotiating position.

After quite a heated debate there were a few moments to discuss issues with the audience and catch up with other colleagues, then a mad dash back to Gare to Midi, a quick stop to stock up on cheese and chocolate, then onto the train home.

Despite the success of the day the outcome of the vote is far from decided. We urgently need to let European Ministers know that their citizens are watching.

Bob explains the carbon credit scam. Credit Yasmeen Ismail.

Bob explains the carbon credit scam.

In an attempt to make this quite complex issue a little bit more digestible one of our hugely talented supporters Yasmeen Ismail (www.rhumbaba.co.uk) has created a short cartoon, with Ronni Ancona very kindly doing the voice over.  Please help us gain another victory for the environment by watching the clip and going to the ‘what can I do’ section of our website.

Fionnuala Walravens

Fionnuala Walravens

Global Environment Campaign Team Leader


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Copyright EIA/TelepakOther good news from Indonesia in the past month relates to timber legality and trade. On the 1st September, Indonesia’s SVLK (Timber Legality Verification System) came into force, having been passed by a Minister of Forestry Regulation in 2009 (No P.38/Menhut-II/2009). Telapak have been centrally involved in the development of this standard over the years, with our joint exposes of illegal logging and timber smuggling helping develop the political and commercial space required to enact it.

While the SVLK is mandatory for all timber producers and traders in Indonesia, it is also the basis of a timber licensing system that will be a central plank of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Indonesia and the European Union, which is now expected to be signed by the end of this year. VPAs are key elements of the European Commission’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, the EU’s core policy on illegal logging and trade.

This follows the passage of the European Illegal Timber Regulation in June this year, which will prohibit the placement of illegal timber from countries such as Indonesia on the EU market. The EU law explicitly exempts VPA-licensed timber from the Due Diligence requirements of the regulation, presenting clear incentives for Indonesia and other countries to agree a VPA.

Such developments have been key strategic goals of EIA’s forests campaign, and are testament to the role EIA and Telapak have played in this important issue for over a decade.

But we can’t rest on our laurels.

Next week, EIA and Telapak are organising and hosting a National Indonesian Civil Society Conference on the new legality standard, in Jakarta, where we hope to facilitate the establishment a network of local and national NGOs and community groups to monitor the implementation of the standard – just in case the authorities don’t do so properly themselves.

Why not trust the authorities? One reason is that one of the recently government accredited “auditors” set to certify supply chains for compliance with the legality standard, PT Sucofindo, featured in our latest timber smuggling expose – Rogue Traders – after staff were found to have accepted bribes to allow logs to be smuggled out of the country in containers. Sometime you have to watch the watchmen, and audit the auditors…

Faith Doherty will be updating you on how the conference goes in the not too distant future, so watch this space…

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But what does this all mean and why should the Average Joe Bloggs care?

We all want nice furniture for our home; a wooden dining table, wooden flooring etc, but how often do you question where the wood has come from? Have you considered how your dining table came to be? From forests, often in Asia or South America, to timber factories; into Europe and the shop floor and finally into your home? A very rough analogy would be; did you question buying chicken breasts from your supermarket before Jamie and Hugh highlighted the terrible conditions of chicken farms?

There is a story behind every piece of wood furniture; millions of people world-wide rely on forests for their livelihood. Illegally sourced wood directly and dramatically affects many of these communities, EIA’s work in Indonesia highlights just one area of exploitation. The core issue behind illegal logging is corruption, and the illegal trade in timber involves major criminal syndicates. Consumers in the UK have spent up to £700 million a year on timber and wood products that we believe are illegally sourced.

And ultimately illegal logging destroys bio-diversity. The most extreme examples of illegal logging are taking place in the last remaining areas of primary forest.

EIA’s campaign originally focused on the Orang-Utan but you cannot save this iconic primate without protecting its habitat – habitat that is disappearing fast.

Why does this affect you?
The US and Europe are the largest consuming markets for these wood products, 20% of the wood that currently enters the EU is illegally sourced, 7% for UK specifically. Our demand for these products drives the trade (WWF; 2007). This new law directly addresses the rogue traders and criminals involved in the illegal timber trade.

You will soon be able to ask the supplier where the wood furniture has come from. Because of the new law, they will be required to ensure they have information of where the timber was harvested.
Last week the EU voted heavily in favour of this law, however it will take two years before it is implemented fully. EIA will now work with the European Commission and member states, including the UK government, to thrash out the details. Penalties need to be high to ensure it deters further illegal activity. This law will make the trade more transparent, one of EIA’s goal, so that in future when we ask where is it from, suppliers will be obiligated to know.

Our mindset to obtain exactly what we desire, prepared, flatpacked, even skinned and seasoned for us (when it comes to chicken!) at a cheap price, without questioning how it came to fruition is ultimately at the root of the problem.
This law and similarly the Lacey Act in the US, both of which EIA have led the way, is a step in combating this crime. Changing your mindset is up to you.
“There is no silver bullet in stopping the illegal trade in timber but this is a good first shot” – Faith Doherty.
EIA campaigner, Faith, has been personally working on this campaign and last week’s vote is a culmination of ten year’s hard work. Whilst investigating the trade ten years ago in Indonesia, she and her colleague were kidnapped and tortured by timber barons for exposing illegal logging. Her personal story is compelling read her interview at mongabay.com our own video with Faith will be on the homepage soon eia-international.org


For more details on the law click here.

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