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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d90oct65

Two recent independent estimates show that the rate of tropical forest destruction has increased substantially through the 1980s. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates annual destruction to be 17.1 million hectares, equal to about one percent of the remaining rainforests and dry forests in the tropics, compared with its 1980 estimate of 11.3 million hectares. The latest figure represents initial results from a detailed survey to be completed by the FAO in 1992, based on satellite images, population information and outside reports. In World Resources 1990-91, the World Resources Institute estimates annual destruction of 16.4 to 20.4 million hectares, based on 1987 ground surveys and satellite data.

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP), established in 1985 by the FAO, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute, is intended to foster preservation of tropical forests while accommodating sustainable exploitation by poor, indigenous inhabitants. Coordinated by the FAO through national plans in over 70 countries, the program has received increasing criticism lately.

A March report issued by the World Rainforest Movement, an international nongovernmental group, claims the TFAP encourages deforestation, primarily because the individual national plans are dominated by conventional forestry interests. (See New Scientist, p. 25, Mar. 31, 1990.) In June, the World Resources Institute published a review of the TFAP which concluded that reorganization and reorientation are necessary. Finally, an independent review panel established by the FAO itself recommended in June several substantial reforms of the program. (See New Scientist, p. 26, June 23.) A coalition of about 20 international nongovernmental groups headed by Friends of the Earth (U.S.) distributed a series of recommendations in September, based in part on these reviews, aimed at the major funders of the TFAP, such as the World Bank. The groups hope to influence a series of meetings planned by the FAO this fall on forest policy.

The World Resources Institute reports mentioned above were listed in Global Climate Change Digest, REPORTS/FROM WRI, Aug. 1990; a related study available is Indigenous Peoples and the Tropical Forestry Action Plan. Contact WRI at 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington DC 20006 (202-638-6300). Contact Friends of the Earth at 218 D St. SE, Washington DC 20003 (202-544-2600). The FAO forest survey is being compiled by K.D. Singh, Forestry Div., U.N. FAO, 00100 Rome, Italy. That survey and the WRI work are discussed in "The Fall of the Forest: Tropical Tree Losses Go from Bad to Worse," R. Monastersky, Science News, pp. 40-41, July 21.

Interest appears to be growing for a world convention on tropical forest preservation, one of the recommendations to emerge from the July economic summit held in Houston, Texas. A subgroup of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also made this recommendation at a workshop on tropical forestry response options earlier this year (Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 52, Feb. 1990). See also "Prince of Wales Proposes Treaty to Protect Tropical Rainforests," ibid., p. 115, Mar.; "Columbia Calls on Rich to Fund Forest Protection," S. Pain, New Scientist, p. 22, Apr. 21.

See commentaries by Radulovich and Sandler in PROF. PUBS./COMMENTARY, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Oct. 1990. Other related articles:

"Brazil's Thriving Environmental Movement," N.B. Worcman, Technology Review, pp. 42-51, Oct. 1990. This feature article by a Brazilian journalist discusses the political setting of environmentalism in the country that has one-third of the world's tropical forests.

"Brazilians Launch Plan to Bring Back the Trees," F. Lesser, New Scientist, p. 32, Sep. 8, 1990. A group of scientists and industrialists has drafted a plan to reforest large areas of their country with 10 billion trees covering 201,000 square kilometers. It estimates the trees could absorb up to five percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"Timber Organization Adopts Forest Plan Despite U.S. Reservations on Time Frame," Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 249, June 1990. At its May 1990 annual meeting in Bali, Indonesia, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) adopted a sustainable forestry plan supported by conservationists. Only the United States objected to setting a target date.

"Amazon Rainforest Problems Exaggerated by Reports, Official Says," ibid., p. 173, April 1990. This view was expressed by the president of an Amazon development group to the Globe '90 environmental conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Replanted Forest Could 'Offset' Dutch Coal-Fired Power Stations," P. Spinks, New Scientist, p. 22, Apr. 21, 1990. The Netherlands Electricity Generating Board and the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture are proposing to off-set the annual emission of six million tons of carbon dioxide from two planned power stations. Over a period of 25 years, 250,000 hectares of tropical rainforest would be replanted in Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

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