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Forest Policy Fails to Address the Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Degradation

Woodchip productionPress release

Excessive Demand for Wood and Land is the Major Cause of Deforestation, a New Global Forest Coalition Report Reveals

Cancun, Mexico, 1 December 2010 – A report released by the Global Forest Coalition today at the UN Climate Talks in Cancun, Mexico reveals that measures to address deforestation, like REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) are likely to fail because they do not address the underlying causes of forest loss, such as excessive global demand for wood, plantation agriculture, expanding agrofuel production, and a rapid shift toward a bioenergy economy. 

High demand for wood is a prominent and persistent driver of deforestation. International demand is primarily generated by industrialized countries, but domestic demand can also be high, especially in countries where wood is easily accessed. Yet there are no international policies to reduce demand for timber as a means of reducing deforestation. To the contrary, EU and US renewable energy policies currently provide massive incentives to increase wood-based bio-energy production, triggering a steep rise in demand for wood.

“Contrary to popular thinking, forests are dependent on the availability of land, not money,” said Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the Global Forest Coalition. “The most effective policies to conserve and restore forests are those that reduce demand for land.”

Another major underlying cause of forest loss is the spiraling demand for land for plantations and other forms of industrial agriculture. In the Mymensingh area of Bangladesh for example, plantations of rubber, acacia, eucalyptus, pineapple, and banana cause forest degradation, and adversely affect the livelihoods of the forest-dwelling Garo and Koch peoples. Cultivation of crops traded in large volumes, such as soy (for foods, animal feed, and agrofuels) require increasingly large tracts of land, leading to the destruction of large tracts of forest in places such as the Amazon.

The Global Forest Coalition’s new report, Getting to the Roots: Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and Drivers of Forest Restoration, also tells an important tale about the integral part that forests play for Indigenous and land-based peoples, both as a foundation of traditions and culture, and as a source of food, medicines and building materials. Thus Indigenous Peoples across the world are highly motivated to conserve forests and restore those damaged by others.

As Geodisio Castillo from Panama observed, “Indigenous People have always considered that land is sacred and that the health of the planet depends on its health and conservation.”

The new report from Global Forest Coalition gathers case studies from around the world to show that the vision professed by many indigenous cultures can provide important forest conservation strategies that run counter to the tendencies promoted by the United Nations, the development banks and other key policy-setting institutions.

Fiu Mataese Elisara said, “There is a pressing need to completely transform the way in which efforts supposed to reduce deforestation, such as REDD, are being developed. A more effective alternative would be to stop commodifying and monetizing forests, and to look to Indigenous Peoples to lead the way on restoring forests, on the basis of their knowledge and enduring commitment to them, providing them with appropriate financial and other support as required.”


Tatiana Roja, Friends of the Earth Colombia said “REDD does not make any real changes. It does not aim to solve the reasons why agribusiness, monocultures and plantations, paramilitaries and certification processes exist in the first place, but simply places a price on everything.”

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The Global Forest Coalition’s new report, Getting to the Roots: Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and Drivers of Forest Restoration can be downloaded at:





In Cancun:

Jeff Conant: Tel: +;1.575.770.2829 (Cancún , Mexico mobile +52.998.165.7349)

Anne Peterman: globalecology@gmavt.netTel: +;1.802.578.0477 / (Cancún , Mexico mobile +52.998.167.8131)

In Europe :

Janneke Romijn: janneke.romijn@globalforestcoalition.orgTel: +31 6 82 07 13 82



–      The report Getting to the Roots: Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and Drivers of Forest Restoration will be launched at a press conference Wednesday December 1, 12.00 – 120.30, room Luna, ground floor of the Moon Palace Expo Centre.  Spokespeople will be available for journalists.

–     The report summarizes the findings of the Global Forest Coalition’s three year global program of workshops investigating the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation, and the incentives and other underlying causes underpinning successful forest conservation and restoration initiatives by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. These events involved over 1,750 people from 24 different countries, coming from Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs), local communities, civil society organizations, government and academia. The resulting national reports are rich in detail and diversity, yet show that there is a remarkable commonality of understanding and analysis, both of the underlying causes of deforestation, and of what it really takes to conserve and restore forests.

1 Dec, 2010
Posted in Press releases, Forests and Climate Change