Wednesday, November 7, 2012

UN Reports That Up To 90% Of Deforestation Is Due To Organized Crime



Environmental crime and the illegal grabbing of natural resources is becoming an evermore sophisticated activity requiring national authorities and law enforcement agencies to develop responses commensurate with the scale and the complexity of the challengeto keep one step ahead.

This report – Green Carbon, Black Trade – by UNEP and INTER-POL focuses on illegal logging and its impacts on the lives andlivelihoods of often some of the poorest people in the world setaside the environmental damage. It underlines how criminalsare combining old fashioned methods such as bribes with hightech methods such as computer hacking of government websites to obtain transportation and other permits. The reportspotlights the increasingly sophisticated tactics being deployedto launder illegal logs through a web of palm oil plantations,road networks and saw mills.

Indeed it clearly spells out that illegal logging is not on the decline, rather it is becoming more advanced as cartels becomebetter organized including shifting their illegal activities inorder to avoid national or local police efforts. By some estimates,15 per cent to 30 per cent of the volume of wood traded globallyhas been obtained illegally. Unless addressed, the criminal ac-tions of the few may endanger not only the development pros-pects for the many but also some of the creative and catalyticinitiatives being introduced to recompense countries and com-munities for the ecosystem services generated by forests.

One of the principal vehicles for catalyzing positive environ-mental change and sustainable development is the ReducedEmissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation initia-tive (REDD or REDD+). If REDD+ is to be sustainable over thelong term, it requests and requires all partners to fine tune theoperations, and to ensure that they meet the highest standardsof rigour and that efforts to reduce deforestation in one locationare not offset by an increase elsewhere.

If REDD+ is to succeed, payments to communities for theirconservation efforts need to be higher than the returns from ac-tivities that lead to environmental degradation. Illegal loggingthreatens this payment system if the unlawful monies chang-ing hands are bigger than from REDD+ payments.

The World’s forests represent one of the most important pil-lars in countering climate change and delivering sustainabledevelopment. Deforestation, largely of tropical rainforests, isresponsible for an estimated 17 per cent of all man-made emis-sions, and 50 per cent more than that from ships, aviation andland transport combined. Today only one-tenth of primary for-est cover remains on the globe.

Forests also generate water supplies, biodiversity, pharma-ceuticals, recycled nutrients for agriculture and flood pre-vention, and are central to the transition towards a GreenEconomy in the context of sustainable development and pov-erty eradication.

Strengthened international collaboration on environmentallaws and their enforcement is therefore not an option. It is in-deed the only response to combat an organized internationalthreat to natural resources, environmental sustainability andefforts to lift millions of people out of penury. Download Report

Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director

Ronald K. Noble INTERPOL Secretary General