April 18, 2016

The credibility of forest certification in Portugal

The successful achievement of sustainable forest management (SFM) is vital to Portugal, an uncontrolled case of deforestation in Europe.

Forest certification (FC) is a market tool that claims to be based on recognition of SFM.

But, how can FC business coexist with deforestation in Europe?

In Portugal, some family-owners and some of their organizations perform an extra effort to implement SFM on their properties, particularly in forest management groups, investing in is external recognition namely by CF. However, they represent less than 50% of the total area certified in the country.

Recently, certification systems operating in Portugal, as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), intend to move towards regional certification level. More than that: for this purpose, they would like to use public support, integrated within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), distorting the principles they should be based on. That is, they want to overcome the outdated poor adherence to this tool - on markets operating in imperfect competition - by the direct support financed by taxpayers. Taxpayers, so, run into the risk of financing an alleged double-charged “transparent” business:  as taxpayers and as consumers.

The coexistence of FC systems with a deforestation situation under no control in Portugal is striking. The country has lost, in a quarter-century, more than one quarter million hectares of its forest area. In annual average, it is the equivalent of Lisbon area - ​​10 thousand hectares per year, since 1990.

Breaches to the Basic Law, the National Forest Strategy and the international commitments assumed by Portugal, in the field of Sustainable Development and of Climate Change and Global Warming, are statistically and successively notorious. The fact is revealed by United Nations (FAO), Eurostat and European Environment Agency reports. But none of them seems to be taken into consideration when one intends to enable the business of FC.

The entities in Portugal, representing FSC and PEFC, have a strong financial dependence of entities that support markets operating through imperfect competition in the country. Portugal has with strong focus on demand, where supply is characterized by 98.4% of the forests under non-public management - more than 80% family-owned. However, that too seems irrelevant to the support of FC business. Even though this market model has been leading to strong consequences in terms of destruction of natural resources, the depreciation of the territory, as the catastrophic spread of forest fires (where the country stands out internationally) and the proliferation of uncontrolled pests and diseases.

The question that arises is whether, at international level, either the FSC or PEFC are colluding with the situation of deforestation in Portugal. Apparently they are! Then, their internal and international credibility would be questionable too!

Isn´t the feasibility of FC, as a business, overlapping the transparency that should be transmitted to the markets?

Is this not an instrument based on hypocrisy?

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