Tuesday, 10 June 2008

From Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The following statement has been received by Nature Alert from UNEP in response to all our messages to them. You will remember UNEP gave the Indonesian Minister of Forestry an award for planting trees - the same Minister who last year helped the most notorious illegal logger walk free from court despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Two of the judges were subsequently promoted!

For UNEP to bestow such an award on this Minister is shameful and shows a remarkable lack of concern and awareness on their part.

UNEP obviously received (they have told me so) a great many emails from our supporters, so a big thank you to all those who wrote; it does make a difference and I doubt UNEP will do such a stupid thing again!

From Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

In Response to Correspondence Concerning the Awarding of a Certificate of Global Leadership to Indonesia

UNEP is deeply concerned about the deforestation of the world’s forests and the impacts of this on poverty, biodiversity and the economically, socially and environmentally-important services such ecosystems produce and provide.

UNEP is working though a variety of channels—publicly and sometimes through what one might call quiet diplomacy--to try and address the situation and is offering expertise and support to countries trying to balance competing interests in order to achieve the goal of sustainable development.

We are supporting efforts, spearheaded by Norway, to try and secure the inclusion of ‘standing forests’ in climate-linked market mechanisms or through special funds under the theme of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

We are also working, often in partnership with others including NGOs to develop sustainability criteria on for example biofuels through various initiatives including one under the umbrella of the G8.

Another is funded and supported by governments, civil society and the European Commission. This international panel, established by UNEP at the end of 2007, is carrying out a life cycle assessment of biofuels in order to bring some intelligence and perspective to what is often a heated debate.

In order to raise public and political attention to the plight of the orangutan and the wider sustainability challenges facing Indonesia and the region, UNEP in collaboration with others published the ‘Last Stand of the Orangutan’ at our Governing Council in 2007.

The report—which generated a good deal of public attention—was launched with the Indonesian environment minister who called for support from the international community to assist his country and the challenges it faces in terms of deforestation and formidable commercial interests.

UNEP has another initiative designed to empower the global public up to governments to address climate change and, in doing so, trying to raise awareness and action through tree planting.

This is the Billion Tree Campaign which has, just now, catalyzed the planting of two billion trees and has set its sights on seven billion trees by the crucial climate convention meeting in late 2009.

Last week UNEP awarded several countries a certificate of Global Leadership for their part in planting two billion trees including Indonesia.

The award or certificate is specifically for the Billion Tree Campaign and we would like it to be seen and understood in this context.

It is UNEP’s hope that empowering action under this initiative will compliment action through more formal channels and by others including civil society to achieve the change all of us so clearly wish to see.

We remain extremely concerned about the situation of the orangutans in Indonesia and indeed great apes everywhere and are doing our best, under GRASP and in collaboration with governments, NGOs and sister UN organizations to bring about the long term, urgent change needed for the biodiversity and the people of the relevant countries in Africa and Asia.