Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Good web site

A very good web site for those with an interest in anything to do with the environment.

Once again, sorry for the poor clarity of the link. It's a blog software problem.


Massive majority want EU illegal timber law


A new poll commissioned by WWF and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe says that European citizens overwhelmingly want stricter controls on illegally sourced timber.

31 Mar 2009

Brussels, Belgium – European citizens overwhelmingly want stricter controls on illegally sourced timber, according to a poll commissioned by WWF and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe.

With an overwhelming 92% of respondents believing it is important that a new EU wide law is introduced to halt the trade in illegal timber and timber products on the European market, WWF and FoE Europe are urging the European Parliament and EU governments to act accordingly and adopt a strong legislation without further delay.

According to the survey, carried out with citizens from 14 countries, an average 56% of polled people do not believe that nearly all wood products they buy in the EU are legal with a further 19% not being sure - undermining the efforts of companies that have been trying to crack down on illegally sourced timber and have proved determined to work towards credible and effective solutions.

“Illegal timber is still a major problem in the EU, with an estimated 16-19% of EU imports being illegal or from suspicious sources,” said Anke Schulmeister, Forest Policy Officer at WWF. “We need a specific and effective timber law in the EU, for which it is clear, there is wide public support.”

In Bulgaria, where illegal logging still occurs, 83% of those asked do not believe that the timber they buy is legally harvested and an amazing majority of 97% think it is important to guarantee legality, demonstrating a clear sign that action is needed. Dutch, Czech and Swedish citizens are among the most doubtful about the legality of timber on the EU markets, with more than 80% saying they do not think the timber they buy is legal or are unclear about it.

In the Mediterranean countries, support for the need for legality and new timber laws that can assure it is almost unanimous. Some 98% of Italians and Spanish and 99% of Portuguese want to be sure that the wood they buy is legal and an average of 97% support the introduction of a new European law.

Support for penalties for infringements against any law was strong overall, and particularly from Bulgaria (96%), Mediterranean countries (average 97%), Poland and France (95%) and major timber supplier Finland (91%).

“EU citizens are showing themselves commendably supportive of the needs of local communities in developing countries where illegal logging is the daily practice,” said Anne van Schaik from Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

“Illegal logging leaves these communities with degraded or destroyed forests, disrupted social structures and loss of livelihoods. It is high time the EU takes responsibility and installs legislation to guarantee the legality of all timber products”.

An EU timber regulation is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and will be voted on in the next few months.

“Negotiators should acknowledge public opinion and support legislation that gives all players in the timber supply chain clear indications about what they need to do to prove the legality of their timber,” said Anke Schulmeister. “To be fair to those companies that have been trying to operate ethically, the legislation needs to provide more certain consequences to those who continue to flout the rules.”

WWF and Friends of the Earth urge the European Parliament and EU governments to agree on the legislation before the European elections in June.

Indonesian forests

Personal comment. The Minister conveniently overlooks that the forests are his responsibility and it is he who sells them to logging and palm oil companies!

Please click on link below to read the article.


Monday, 30 March 2009

Palm oil and the USA's connection

You might recall me mentioning recently how USA conservation groups were not doing enough (barely anything in fact) to raise awareness of palm oil's cost to the environment in Malaysia and Indonesia.

As far as I am aware unlike the EU which is bringing in legislation to ensure only sustainable palm oil enters the EU market, in America 'it's business as usual'. Which means the USA along with India, Pakistan and China are all part of the problem as they will take any palm oil - and no questions asked. And this makes the USA a big part of the problem instead of the solution.

Let's be clear about this: The USA has the largest and most wealthy environmental groups in the world and together they are doing less than some individuals in the EU and Australia.

the following two articles illustrate what I have been saying for some time.

North Americans consuming more palm oil

By Ooi Tee Ching Business Times, Malaysia

Published: 2009/03/31

Malaysian palm oil exporters are benefiting from the US recession, as cost-conscious Americans buy more ready-to-eat meals that are mainly cooked in palm oil and margarine.

Demand for palm oil is also rising when more authorities in the US ban artificial trans fats after medical tests linked it to heart ailments, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) deputy chief executive Dr K. Sundram said.

“Artificial trans fat is proven to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Many food companies in the US and Canada are voluntarily switching to natural palm oil and bakery fats that are trans fat free,” he said.

Sundram said many food companies choose palm oil because in its natural form, it can straight away be made into bakery fats. Palm stearin formulations, which can withstand high heat of 200°C, have good baking characteristics.

New York City started the ball rolling, and now California has also declared that by January 2010, all 88,000 restaurants in the state will be prohibited from using partially-hydrogenated soft oils that contain artificial trans fats.

“In view of California’s compliance deadline, we’re hopeful of more demand for palm oil and fats in the second half of this year. We should be able to export 1.1 million tonnes of palm oil to the US this year, 10 per cent more than last year,” Sundram added.

In a separate interview, IOI Group’s Loders Croklaan vice-president of research and development and marketing Dr Gerald McNiell confirmed that its operations in Chicago and Toronto are benefiting from these trends.

He said North American consumers are dining less often at restaurants, choosing instead to save costs by cooking at home. They buy more ready-to-eat meals, which are mostly cooked in palm oil and shortening.

Loders Croklaan’s non-hydrogenated, trans-free SansTrans brand was launched in 2003, and by 2006 more than 30 new products based on palm oil had been developed for the US market.

Last year, the company sold 250,000 tonnes of SansTrans in North America. McNiell hopes to increase sales by 10 per cent to 275,000 tonnes this year.

Since New York City’s ban on trans fat last year, Loders Croklaan has sold more SansTrans shortenings there to bakeries and restaurateurs for use in cakes, pastry, cookies, biscuits, candies, icing cream, pie crust, and pizza dough.

McNiell said these achievements were not easy, as palm oil in general had to overcome decades of negative perception and propaganda before it won over North America’s baking and confectionery community, and its customers.


Government Mum On Rights Report

This article has direct relevance to the previous email. It is a safe bet that palm oil from West Kalimantan reaches the USA and will continue to do so unless someone there is concerned enough to take on this issue. No one is saying 'ban palm oil'. What is needed is fully sustainable palm oil.


March 30, 2009 http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/images/buttons/share_google.gifGOOGLE

Ismira Lutfia. The Jakarta Globe

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to respond to a United Nation’s report that states Jakarta’s failure to respect the rights of its indigenous peoples, arguing that it is under no obligation to do so.

The ministry also argued that there was no such thing as an indigenous person, as every Indonesian citizen was equal in the eyes of the Constitution.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in a letter to Indonesia’s Permanent Mission in Geneva, says it is “concerned” about the Indonesian government’s failure to respect the rights of indigenous people in their own forests and the increasing conflict between local people and palm oil plantations.

The letter said that the government also failed to provide information on the way it had followed up recommendations laid out by the committee in August 2007, despite being asked to do so within one year. The request was in response to a complaint from a coalition of nine local and one international nongovernmental organizations regarding a planned palm oil plantation project in West Kalimantan that threatened to encroach on local Dayak people’s land.

The UN letter also noted the “high number of conflicts arising each year throughout Indonesia between local communities and palm oil companies.”

Wiwiek Setyawati Firman, the ministry’s director for human rights and humanitarian affairs, rejected the UN’s process and said Indonesia had its own internal mechanism to deal with such issues, such as the National Commission on Human Rights.

Wiwiek also said that she had checked with the West Kalimantan administration, which said the project did not exist.