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Developing countries often outsource deforestation, study finds

During the past five years, the net land-use displacement increased to 52 acres of imported agricultural or forestry products for every 100 acres reforested, he added. That is, for every acre of reforested land, a half-acre was used elsewhere, including countries like Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for 61 percent of the all deforestation in the humid tropics between 2000 and 2005.

Glass half full

"If local forest protection merely shifts forest-conversion pressure to natural forests elsewhere in the world, we will not achieve a net gain for nature at a global scale," Lambin said. "However, this study does not imply that the efforts of these countries to protect their forests was useless, but that international trade in wood and agricultural products can decrease the global environmental benefits of national forest-protection policies. The glass is half full, not just half empty."

Meyfroidt pointed to several ways that countries could work together to reduce deforestation abroad, including:

  • Strengthening international cooperation on issues related to deforestation and land use.

  • Integrating trade data in international negotiations on environmental issues.

  • Integrating environmental degradation data in international trade rules.

  • Promoting certification systems that better link consumption decisions with environmental impacts at production sites.

According to the authors, the study has important implications for the Dec. 5 meeting of the United Nations Collaborative Initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) in Cancun, Mexico.

"The REDD mechanism that is under negotiation should include guardrails to assure that countries that commit to decrease their rate of deforestation do not export their deforestation," Meyfroidt said.


Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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