Megaprojects risk pushing forests beyond tipping point – report | Environment


Mega-infrastructure projects risk pushing the world’s remaining forests past a “dangerous tipping point” and rendering climate targets unachievable, according to a report.Tens of thousands of kilometers of roads and railroads are planned along mines and dams, opening up forests in South America, Southeast Asia and Central Africa to destruction, according to the report a coalition of 25 research and conservation organizations called the New York Declaration on Forest Assessment Partners. Today, nearly half of all major mines – more than 1,500 – are in forests.

In 2014, 50 countries and 50 of the world’s largest companies supported the declaration, pledging to reduce deforestation by 50% by 2020 and end the destruction of forests by 2030.

But the 2020 target has been missed and deforestation is increasing.

The report found that many countries and companies had adopted regulations and plans, but their implementation remained poor. Only 10% of the 225 companies operating mines in the forest responded to the report’s authors’ request for information on their biodiversity commitments.

“Forests are at a dangerous tipping point and these large-scale projects could push us to the limit,” said Erin Matson, senior consultant at Climate Focus and co-author of the report. “There is now a very small window of opportunity – and one which is closing – to rethink these projects. Governments, businesses and investors must mobilize and act quickly to avoid further harm to people, wildlife and nature. “

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Franziska Haupt, lead author of the report and also at Climate Focus, said: “Forests are absolutely essential. If we don’t stop deforestation, we will not meet our climate goals. Infrastructure and mining are probably the biggest threat to forests, perhaps even more than agriculture, because they really open forests up to these other drivers and create access to global markets in these remote regions.

Robert Nasi, head of the Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor), one of NYDF’s evaluation partners, said: “We live in a dream world of promises but a reality of little progress, lack of transparency, termism interests. Alas, reality will always catch up with us. ”

Aidan Davy, from the International Council on Mining and Metals, which has 27 member mining companies, said: “We need mining companies across the industry to commit to higher standards of performance in biodiversity and other environmental, social and governance areas objective of the ICMM mining principles. ”

The ICCM also called on governments to ban mining in forest areas of higher conservation value and to apply stronger protective measures.

The report from NYDF assessment partners, including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Chatham House and the World Wildlife Fund, found that megaprojects involving transport corridors were planned or under development in most critical tropical forest regions. “Even the projects that have just been planned are already creating an incentive for land speculators,” Haupt said.

The governments of five Amazonian countries are investing $ 27 billion (£ 20 billion) over the next five years to build or upgrade more than 12,000 km of roads, which would result in deforestation of around 2.4 million hectares .

In Indonesia, the 2,500 km Trans-Papua road will cross Lorentz National Park, increasing access to more than 50,000 hectares of mining concessions inside the park, while a railroad slated for Kalimantan would open up areas for coal mining and palm oil production. In Papua New Guinea, two plans would double the length of the country’s road network by the end of 2022, the report said.

A burnt area of ​​the Amazon rainforest in Rondônia state, Brazil. Vast swathes of rainforest on three continents went up in smoke in 2018, with an area roughly the size of Switzerland cut or burnt to make way for livestock and cash crops, according to reports based on satellite data. Photograph: Carl de Souza / AFP / Getty Images

An infrastructure boom in sub-Saharan Africa involves dozens of international development corridors for exporting minerals and energy, the report says. The corridors would cross 400 protected areas and degrade an additional 1,800.

“People need better access, but these are not highways designed to prioritize connecting communities with health care or economic opportunities,” said Anthony Bebbington, a mining expert and reporting author. “Their goal is to make it easier and cheaper to extract natural capital in a way that primarily benefits economic elites.”

The report says some governments have improved regulation, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo reforming land use planning and Indonesia setting ambitious targets, although these have since been weakened.

The Brazilian government has opened up indigenous territories to mining, and the Trump administration in the United States has ended the obligation of federal agencies to consider the indirect environmental impacts of new infrastructure.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an assessment partner of the NYDF, has invited 225 mining companies to report on their biodiversity efforts. Of the 23 who responded, and the 22 others who were analyzed, few shared specific action goals, said Morgan Gillespy, global director of forests at CDP.

The report describes the steps to be taken to ensure the protection of forests. “We can do things differently,” Haupt said. “What we are talking about is not a pie in the sky.”

One step is to ensure that the benefits of forests are included when evaluating megaprojects. Matson said: “If the true value of forests is taken into account – reducing climate change, protecting animal habitats and reducing the spread of zoonotic diseases. [like the coronavirus], keeping water sources clean, and a long list of other benefits without a price tag – then many of these projects would never get the green light. ”

Another step is to consider alternative ways of developing poorer areas. Anne Larson, Team Leader at Cifor, said: “There is still a fundamental disconnect between what governments and businesses think development should look like and the kinds of actions needed for healthy livelihoods and healthy planet.

“Securing the rights and supporting the sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and other local communities would go a long way in reducing deforestation.”


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