14-05-2019 – Green bonds are used to finance business-as-usual tree plantations and operations of the paper & pulp industry and claiming exaggerated CO2 savings, a new briefing by the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) shows. The briefing presents a case study of a Green Bond issued by the Brazilian pulp & paper giant Fibria, even if the company has not engaged in any kind of environmental reorientation of its business activities. Instead, its Green Bond was used to finance expansions of monoculture industrial tree plantations.
The briefing argues that bonds for industrial tree plantations should not be eligible for a “green” label, as these do not provide additional ecological nor financial benefits. In addition to the negative ecological impacts such as reduction of water availability and pollution by pesticides and fertilizers, plantations have also caused numerous social and land conflicts with traditional communities in Brazil. In order to be beneficial for the climate, tree plantations should maintain and increase the amount of carbon stored in them over time, rather than have the trees quickly harvested and used for short lived products.
Fibria launched a Bond of USD 700 million in 2017 which according to the research by EPN has been mostly used to plant eucalyptus plantations and to purchase certified wood for its pulp mills. To a large extent these purchases are part of the everyday business of Fibria.
Green Bonds are supposed to be bonds earmarked for the financing of climate and environmental projects. Issuers of bonds like Fibria usually label bonds ‘green’ themselves, sometimes backed by different kinds of voluntary standards. However, the generally weak criteria of these standards and the poor disclosure requirements allow many business-as-usual projects to be labelled as “green”.
“The example of bonds by Fibria to finance business-as-usual industrial plantations raises the question of whether these self-labelled bonds and weak standards can credibly guarantee that money invested in these bonds will have a positive impact on the environmental and the climate”, said Merel van der Mark, coordinator of pulp finance work at the Environmental Paper Network.
“Green Bonds are an excellent opportunity to put together the growing demand for ethical investment for the huge environmental challenges the world is facing. They can attract resources otherwise unavailable and finance the implementation of projects that contribute to a better environment and climate. But this can only work if the green bonds can provide additional benefits, both financially and ecologically”, said Wolfgang Kuhlmann, the author of the briefing.
The Environmental Paper Network (EPN)* has published In the Red, an assessment of bank policies for financing pulp and paper companies worldwide. This assessment reveals that the banks most deeply involved in the pulp and paper sector do not have public policies that will ensure they avoid financing projects and companies that cause environmental and social harm.
EPN日前在全球范围内公布了有关浆纸企业融资的银行政策评估报告In the Red。该报告表明深度涉足浆纸业的银行并没有相关公共政策来避免该融资项目和纸张公司所引起的环境和社会危害。
The assessment studied how ready the financial sector is to manage the environmental and social risks of financial involvement with the pulp and paper industry. It is a benchmark assessment carried out by a team of researchers from several countries, which evaluated the pulp and paper policies of 42 private banks against the requirements set out in 2016 in Green Paper, Red Lines.
该报告还研究了金融部门是否准备好应对浆纸业项目带来的环境与社会风险。这份由来自数个国家的研究者产出的准基报告，认定有42家私营银行的浆纸政策不符和2016年发布的Green Paper, Red Lines报告所提出的要求。
The Red Lines are regulatory, environmental and social criteria, which articulate minimum requirements that pulp and paper companies must meet before investment in them is considered. Unless pulp and paper mills and their financiers fulfil these requirements, they are highly likely to cause social and environmental harm and become the target of campaigns by civil society organisations. Member organisations of EPN therefore expect financiers to stay clear if their client pulp and paper companies are unable to meet the minimum requirements. The unacceptable level of relevant policies in financial institutions clearly demonstrates a lack of accountability and commitment regarding these issues.
Mandy Haggith, co-ordinator of the Environmental Paper Network’s pulp finance working group, said: “The results of our assessment reveal that bank policies are extremely disappointing. Unfortunately none of the banks we assessed manages to thoroughly protect itself from clients breaching the Red Lines. Indeed for most of the Red Lines, the vast bulk of banks are at best only partly protected. We can only conclude that the banking sector does not have policies that are fit for purpose to avoid irresponsible investment in damaging pulp and paper projects and companies. We urge all banks to review and strengthen their policies for involvement in this sector.”
EPN浆纸金融工作组的协调人 Mandy Haggith说：“我们这份报告结果显示，银行的环境政策是极度令人失望的。我们评估的银行中，很不幸地，没有一家能够保证他们的客户能够达到Green Paper, Red Lines的标准。实际上报告中的多数标准，大部分银行顶多只是部分涉及。我们只能推断，银行业没有相适应的政策来避免浆纸类项目中不负责任的投资。因此，我们迫切希望银行能够重新审视和加强他们的相关政策。”
* EPN is a global network of more than 140 non-governmental organisations, working on pulp and paper sustainability issues, all of which endorse the Global Paper Vision.
Two new species of tarsier — a tiny, nocturnal primate found only in parts of Southeast Asia — have been discovered on an island in Indonesia, a new study confirms.
With their adorably large eyes and prominent ears, tarsiers are rumored to have been the inspiration for Yoda from the “Star Wars” films. The new study, cannily published in the journal Primate Conservation on “Star Wars Day” — “May the Fourth be with you!” — raises a new hope for future forest conservation efforts in one of the world’s most exquisitely biodiverse regions.
“These two new species are the 80th and 81st primates new to science described since 2000 — this represents about 16 percent of all primate species known, and is indicative of how little we know of our planet’s unique and wonderful biodiversity,” said Russ Mittermeier, a primatologist with Conservation International (CI) and one of the study’s co-authors. “If we haven’t even gotten a handle on the diversity our closest living relatives, which by comparison are relatively well-studied, imagine how much we still have to learn about the rest of life on Earth.”
Tarsiers may as well have come straight out of a science-fiction film.
An adult male tarsier weighs about as much as a stick of butter. Its massive eyes — each as large as its brain, and the largest relative to body size of any mammal — are fixed in their sockets. (Helpfully, tarsiers can turn their head more than 180 degrees in either direction, like an owl.) The long-legged, long-tailed creatures can leap as many as 3 meters (10 feet) in a single bound. And rare among primates, they are completely carnivorous, eating only live food (mostly insects).
The two new species were discovered on the northern arm of Sulawesi, a large, orchid-shaped island in Indonesia. Their scientific names — Tarsius spectrumgurskyae and Tarsius supriatnai — honor prominent scientists: Sharon Gursky, a tarsier expert at Texas A&M University, and Jatna Supriatna, a biology professor at the University of Indonesia and a former director of CI Indonesia. While the two new tarsier species appear similar to each other (and to other tarsiers), they were isolated as new species through their distinct vocalizations and genetic data.
The study’s authors write that their research highlights the “conservation crisis” facing the region. As recently as 2014, Indonesia had the highest rate of deforestation in the world; habitats of unique and endemic species — including orangutans, Sumatran rhinos and tigers — have shrunk rapidly due in large part to unsustainable agricultural expansion.
The study’s lead author, Western Washington University researcher Myron Shekelle told the website MongaBay: “Sulawesi, like many regions in the tropics, is facing a conservation crisis. The big difference between Sulawesi and elsewhere is that owing to the complex geological history of the island, we have likely underestimated the true diversity of species there by an order of magnitude or more. Thus, each time habitat loss causes the extinction of what we might have thought was one species, the actual number of extinctions might be 10 times greater than that.”
He continued: “Primates, such as these two tarsier species, serve as flagships for conservation awareness. And if we set aside habitat for these two species, then as a result, we will also have set aside for the myriad other species of plants, insects and everything else that no one has the time, money, or interest to study, but which one day we may see as valuable, perhaps because they provide a drug to cure your child’s cancer, or perhaps just because we value it all as a part of the web of life to which we, ourselves, are connected.”
The rangers were slogging their way up the mud-slick mountainside in Thap Lan National Park when a hand signal brought our patrol to a sharp halt. A scout up ahead had found a letter “K” carved into the side of a tree. It was the signature of a timber poacher, rumored to be Cambodian, who had evaded capture for months, taunting them each time he pushed deeper into protected Thai territory.
Captain Morokot and his scout rushed forward hoping to catch the loggers by surprise, only to find a makeshift abandoned camp. Red Bull energy drink cans and cigarette butts littered the ground.
“The poachers have their own lookouts, so it’s getting harder to sneak up on them,” Morokot sighed. “We know some of them were soldiers [because] when we get close, they have no problem shooting at us.”
In the mountain jungles of eastern Thailand, a shadowy war is ramping up between poachers and the ill-equipped rangers tasked with stopping them. Surging Chinese demand for so-called “red timbers”—Tamalan, Padauk, Siamese rosewood—has fueled the destruction of forests across Southeast Asia’s backcountry and now threatens to drive some tree species to extinction.
Thap Lan and adjoining parks—part of a complex that has UNESCO World Heritage status—are home to everything from black bears and crocodiles to elephants and tigers. Nearly 150 bird species have been documented in Thap Lan alone, including the green imperial pigeon and stork-billed kingfisher. By cutting down trees and hunting for bush meat, timber thieves are threatening one of the most biodiverse corners of Asia.
Linked to multinational criminal syndicates that have systematically clear-cut swathes of neighboring Cambodia, the logging gangs operating in Thailand are well armed, coordinated, and prepared to kill. In 2014, seven Thai rangers died in gun battles with illegal loggers. Two more were killed in a late-night ambush following a November raid on an illegal logging site.
“These trees belong to our people,” said Morokot, who first came to Thap Lan as a tourist and was so moved by the richness of the place that he applied for a job to protect it. Now he’s one of dozens of rangers who patrol the 860-square-mile (2,235 square kilometers) reserve, teams so ill-equipped that some men don’t even have guns, and bullets are always in short supply.
As timber elsewhere in Thailand runs out, loggers are making more brazen incursions deep into Thap Lan to steal the most prized timber of all: Siamese rosewood. With its darkly rich hues, density, and fine grain, rosewood has long been a favorite in China, where it’s carved into elaborate furniture and religious statues known as hongmu, an antique style that originated centuries ago.
Reproduction hongmu furniture has become a status symbol of China’s new rich. A 2011 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a U.K.-based NGO, says demand for Ming and Qing dynasty-era replica products soared in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and has stayed high. Prices hover around $20,000 a ton, with some varietiesspiking as high as $80,000.
A smaller, but significant, amount of illegally harvested rosewood makes its way from Southeast Asia via China to the U.S. These exports range from hongmu items sold in Asian furniture emporiums to name brand mail-order coffee tables.
“For the last two or three years, it’s just grown out of control,” says Tim Redford, of the Freeland Foundation, an organization funded by the U.S. government that monitors wildlife and trains rangers to combat rosewood poachers. “They’re going in with AK-47s, M-16s, hand grenades detonators.” As rosewood becomes scarcer, he adds, the risks the timber thieves are willing to take are increasing.
“What most consumers don’t understand in America is that this wood came from an illegal source,” says Redford, who acknowledges the difficulty of tracing a product’s origins. “People have risked their lives for that timber.”
Poachers Without Borders
In Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar massive tracts of virgin forest have been razed to sustain the rosewood trade, but no country has lost more than Cambodia. By some estimates, more than a third of its forests disappeared during the past four decades, despite a moratorium on logging and a 2013 ban on the harvesting, sale, and export of Siamese rosewood.
In Cambodia, poverty drives many men to timber poaching. One veteran smuggler, who declined to give his name, said he logged rosewood on the Cambodian side for years until the trees ran out. (We were introduced by a local journalist, and he agreed to talk because he was frustrated over the lack of economic opportunities in Cambodia.) Then, under cover of darkness, he began making forays into Thailand, hacking down trunks and selling whatever planks he managed to haul out to army soldiers.
A land mine blew off half of his right leg, but with no other way to earn a living, he still crosses the border to search for rosewood, at times taking fire from Thai rangers. “Everybody knows it’s a dangerous job,” he said, “but there’s no choice.”
Although Thap Lan rangers haven’t taken any casualties, Wichai Pomleesansumon, the park’s superintendent, says Cambodian poachers operating inside Thailand have been helped out with arms and logistics support from members of the Cambodian military.
“A few years back, our rangers were finding Cambodian soldiers’ cards left in the jungle, which led us to believe they were the ones doing the logging,” he said. “Now it appears they’re hiring out labor to log for them.” (Cambodia’s military command didn’t respond to requests for comment, but authorities have arrested some soldiers for poaching.)
Freeland’s Redford says that stolen wood smuggled on the backs of amphetamine-addled workers or packed in secret truck compartments makes its way to private depots run by a politically connected timber mafia, where it’s mixed in with domestically harvested timber. Paperwork is then issued for export, mainly to China.
Ouch Leng, an independent Cambodian investigator who tracks the illicit rosewood trade, says the Cambodian government has bent its own rules to accommodate timber tycoons who in turn provide hefty kickbacks. The first strategy is for officials to grant land concessions, nominally for agriculture purposes, that allow timber to be clear-cut and sold in the process.
The second is to convert state public property to private property under the pretext of using it for development. Here again, timber is razed and sold off by the companies. “The country is for sale,” Ouch Leng said.
According to Global Witness, a U.K.-based nonprofit that tracks resource exploitation, a timber tycoon named Try Pheap is “at the helm of an illegal logging network that relies on the complicity of officials from government, the military, police and customs to clear rare trees like Siamese Rosewood, traffic logs across the country and load them onto boats bound for Hong Kong” in what amounts to “daylight robbery.” This includes the exclusive right to buy timber seized by any enforcement agencies
A February 2015 report alleges that Pheap and his companies have grown rich with illicit logging profits thanks to close ties with Prime Minister Hun Sen, for whom he once served as a personal adviser. Pheap has donated tens of thousand of dollars to the ruling party and holds a royally conferred honorific title—oknha—as a result.
Based on the findings of an unpublished 2012 investigation by an international environmental group, the Phnom Penh Post alleged thatPheap made some $220 million trafficking illegally logged rosewood during a recent three-year period.
Last month, Pheap was singled out again when a provincial governor told officials gathered at the first meeting of a new anti-logging task force that Pheap had been granted illegal concessions on property inside a wildlife sanctuary—land previously confiscated from companies that had violated the law.
Local journalists and investigators who cover logging say they face death threats and have lived in constant fear since the 2012 murder of Chut Wutty, a prominent activist who helped expose a government sell-off of national parkland. He was shot dead by military police. “No one can do anything against the timber mafia because it belongs to Try Pheap,” Ouch Leng said. “He’s the rosewood king.”
Prak Vuthy, a Try Pheap Group spokesman, dismissed the allegations.“Maybe all of these accusations are not true,” he said, adding that his boss has operated his businesses within the law, with official paperwork to back it up.
Pheap is secretive and avoids interviews, but a museum he’s putting up on the outskirts of Phnom Penh offers a vivid illustration of his wealth and priorities. Made almost entirely out of wood, it rises several stories atop columns of giant rosewood trunks, with a vaulted tile roof and ornate hand-carved molding—a temple to an allegedly tainted fortune.
In a separate complex behind the museum, a large anteroom full of polished rosewood furniture—king-size beds, thrones, busts of Khmer kings—opens up to a warehouse stacked high with raw planks of red timber. At first Vuthy denied that any of it was rosewood, calling it “ordinary wood.” But when pressed, he conceded that some was rosewood, handing over documents with Cambodian forestry department stamps confirming its legal provenance.
The museum is supposed to open this year, but Try Pheap’s staff says it may be delayed by a shortage of large rosewood trunks.
“Buying More Time”
Some of the last virgin rosewood tracts lie just across the Cambodian border in Thailand. Park authorities in Thap Lan confirmed that poachers are coming across in unprecedented numbers, gauged by the volume of arrests and numbers of poachers recorded by camera traps.
On the third day of Morokot’s mountain patrol in Thap Lan park, slowed by driving monsoon rains, his scout spotted another “K” carved into a tree. The red hue of the cut indicated it was fresh. Their nemesis might be at hand.
Once again, the two men charged ahead in pursuit, with rifles at the ready. They slashed through thorny vines and razor-edged palm leaves the loggers had cut down to slow their advance until a river cut them off.
Had the poachers walked upstream, then doubled back in the direction the rangers had just come from? Or had they crossed to the opposite side? Perhaps just one poacher had crossed, as a diversion, while the others double backed up the river.
With the trail going cold, and unsure of which way to go, the rangers stuck to their planned route alongside the river, which eventually brought them to a dirt track: the end of another patrol. Dog tired and empty-handed, they were demoralized.
At this rate of destruction, Morokot reckoned, all the rosewood trees in Thap Lan would disappear. “Right now we’re just buying more time,” he said.
By Jason Motlagh
Jason Motlagh is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker. He has won a National Magazine Award for News Reporting and has been a finalist in the reporting category. Follow him on his website and on Twitter.