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  • WWF Calls for a Public Debate on the Results of the Romanian National Forest Inventory

    In order to protect the forest and the integrity of the forest staff, it is necessary to transform the current control system based on marking and guarding trees in the forest, into one focused on the control of the transportation of wood leaving the forest.  © Adrian Scutariu 21 November 2019 (Bucharest) - WWF-Romania requests a clear, official analysis of the information contained in the National Forest Inventory (NFI). The NFI does not provide a figure for illegal logging, yet certain stakeholders are extrapolating this information by picking and choosing data according to their own agenda without looking at the overall picture of Romanian forests. In the last few years, different figures have been made public regarding the volume of illegally harvested wood. The divergent data from different institutional reports and independent studies has generated much controversy and questions about their scientific justification. An unsubstantiated claim that 20 million m3 of illegally harvested wood go "missing" annually from Romanian forests has recently made both national and global headlines. However, that figure was never officially mentioned until last Friday when the Ministry of Environment announced it without proper analysis and understanding. The number has somehow been arrived at to explain discrepancies in data between the two inventory periods (2008-2012 and 2013-2018). WWF finds this situation unacceptable and contrary to scientific practice. Since the Romanian Government ordered an NFI from the Forest Research Institute, both the Institute and Government must explain the method for gathering data and declare the official numbers. The Romanian Academy of Agriculture and Forest Sciences and the Romanian Forest Research Institute have both presented a very similar stance to that of WWF on this question.

    "It is wrong to interpret that the "missing" volume represents the total volume of illegal logging. It must be understood that the National Forest Inventory reports largely present the situation in the field before October 2014, 7 years before the introduction of SUMAL. In the absence of a rigorous analysis of the NFI results, erroneous interpretation may occur which could potentially position development of Romania's forest policy in a wrong direction. In which case, the forest and society will be left to pay for the lack of clear information regarding the real current situation." - Radu Vlad, Forest Coordinator, WWF-Romania
    Aquila non capit muscas ("the eagle does not catch flies") – in the same way, the NFI was not designed or commissioned to determine the volume of illegal logging.
    NFI is a tool that inventories national forest resources. As such, it offers statistical information regarding the development, area and structure of the nation's forests; the volume of standing wood (meaning the living trees in the forest); current annual forest increase; levels of dead wood, etc. Considering that the NFI is based on a statistic processing of filed data and does not represent a census of all trees in Romania, it is extremely important to have information on the data for which there is statistic coverage. Moreover, interpretation of the data must take standard associated errors into consideration.
    Until now, decision-makers have relied on different reports and analysis which only state the relevance and immediacy of illegal logging. No rigorous, scientifically targeted analysis has ever been aimed at quantifying the level of illegal logging at the national level. Both the competent authority and the representatives of the Romanian National Institute for Forest Research and Development (INCDS) have stated that an NFI cannot identify the volume of illegal logging, only that it can confirm that it is still a relevant problem.
    NFI confirms the relevance of the principles and direction for fighting illegal logging
    WWF-Romania proposes a system of monitoring and control at the point where wood is placed on the market. The current system of selling wood as standing timber without verification of wood products as they are placed on the market (as they exit the forest) constitutes the main cause of the illegal logging controversy in Romania. Foresters record transported volumes using numbers having two decimal places, while the legally permissible error for tree measurement in the forest exceed 20%. Less than 1% of the wood transports are verified as they leave the forest. The current legal framework (wood selling regulation, norms regarding the circulation of wood materials, forest protection regulations, the statute for forestry personnel, etc.) has imposed this inefficient, costly and dangerous (for control personnel) system.
    A radical change of the wood selling system is required together with an associated system of combatting illegal logging. The integrated solutions to address illegal logging proposed and supported by WWF-Romania are found here.
    Methods, numbers, standard errors and many other questions regarding the NFI results
    WWF-Romania has repeatedly requested official clarifications regarding the method of collecting field data, and the methodology used to analyse and interpret information regarding forestry resources. Unfortunately, no answer has ever been received, and the partial results have not been communicated properly by either the institution performing the inventory (INCDS) or by the competent ministry as a beneficiary. Thus, an opportunity for different interpretations has been created which has generated much confusion.
    Questions regarding NFI results:

    • How is the "missing wood volume" explained?
    The missing volume estimated by NFI clearly includes a degree of illegal logging, however, it is absolutely incorrect and irresponsible to assign it the entire number. In all the countries which have ever implemented a National Forest Inventory, there has always been a missing volume between cycles that must be explained. Unfortunately, certain stakeholders in Romania have jumped the gun and found correlations with illegal logging when the authorities and inventory authors have not yet explained publicly how this result should be understood. For example, does the missing volume appear due to the comparison of some data obtained for different purposes, or by using different methods and sources?
    • What percentage of the missing wood volume relates to the approximately 400,000 hectares of forests belonging to private owners included in the National Forest Fund (NFF), and for which no forestry services are included?
    Over 8% of the national forestry fund is owned by over 300,000 private individual owners of areas between 0.1-10.0 ha. There are no clear ownership documents for a good percentage of these areas. For administrative and financial reasons, these forests have not yet been adopted into any kind of forestry structure.
    • What percentage of the missing wood volume relates to the approximately 500,000 hectares of forests outside of National Forest Fund (wooded meadows or pastures for which wood cutting and even deforestation is legally at the owner's discretion)?
    WWF evaluations demonstrate that over 25% of the national "tree cover loss" is represented by areas outside of National Forest Fund. Illegal deforestation of these forest areas was even financially stimulated through direct agriculture subsidies beginning in 2008.
    • If and how much deadwood is found in the missing wood volume?
    The NFI results (Cycles I. and II.) regarding the standing and fallen deadwood are incompletely presented. According to the definition, a certain amount of deadwood may be found in this missing volume. However, the published NFI results do not communicate the calculation of these quantities or the method of field data collection. Starting in 2012, Romania has FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council) over 2.5 million ha of forests, and approximately 40% of the forests have been included as Natura 2000 sites where the environmental conditions regarding the conservation of deadwood are imposed by law or voluntarily assumed. Since deadwood is a very relevant indicator for biodiversity conservation in our forests, the National Forestry Inventory should communicate how the quantity of deadwood was determined.
    • What is the proportion of the sample areas that offers an image of the real wood harvesting levels between 2008 and 2014 (before SUMAL was implemented) which influenced the final NFI results published in 2018?
    The estimated "missing" volume in the first NFI cycle was estimated at 8.6 million m3 and in the second cycle (for the period 2013-2018) the missing volume appears to be 20 million m3/year. What is the contribution during the 2008-2014 period to the estimation of the "missing" volume? Is it possible that the volume of illegal logging has doubled even after acknowledging that the conditions making illegal logging more difficult have significantly strengthened in the last 4 years?!
    • What is the actual work methodology, and what estimation techniques are employed?
    The National Forestry Inventory website presents results which could not have been obtained in a correct and complete manner if the published methodology had been followed. When evaluating the degree of naturalness or determining virgin and quasi-virgin forests, the indicators approved by law could not have been completely taken into consideration (i.e. the criterion of form and area). In communicating the results, terms are used which are not clearly defined and which, in all likelihood, have different meanings in comparison to the terms defined by law. We request the publication of the work methodology and the guidebook used for collecting field data.
    • How can it be explained that some of the results published together with the associated sampling errors do not correspond to the official recordings?
    Evidence of the functional type category for approximately 7 million ha of forest is offered, but the forest management plans cover less than 6 million ha (the division by functional type category is only recorded in valid forest management plans). Therefore, we must ask how this classification was made. For example, in areas which fall within functional Type I – strict protection, it may be possible that the data does not correspond to reality.
    • What is the distribution according to age classes of the forest fund for which the production process is regulated (functional types TIII-TVI)? And for areas included in TI-TII? How has the age of the trees and of forest stands (the forest) been determined?
    • For the interpretation of NFI results and their comparison with official records, should the standard errors generated by the dendrometric method and the measurement errors be considered as well? If yes, what are these errors?
    About the National Forest Inventory's role
    The agency's website presents a positive picture of Romanian forestry to the world. The forests of Romania are increasing; they represent considerable accumulations of biomass, predominantly with natural composition and regeneration.
    The project must continue, to provide more information of general interest (including for biodiversity conservation) in the future, and clear and transparent interpretation of the results must form the basis of a national forestry policy for sustainable forest management.

  • Christmas Comes Early for Rivers and Nature: European Commission Concludes EU Water Law is "Fit for Purpose"

    From supporting climate adaptation to protecting biodiversity, fuelling sustainable food systems to thriving economies, a strong WFD forms the necessary baseline to secure all the benefits healthy freshwater ecosystems provide.  © WWFThe European Commission's final evaluation of EU water legislation has concluded the EU Water Framework Directive to be "fit for purpose;" acknowledging that the objectives of the law "are as relevant now as they were at the time of the adoption," and that the law has led to "a higher level of protection for water bodies and flood risk management."
    12 December 2019 (Brussels) - This concludes the two-year evaluation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). By discarding the possibility of revision, the EU is back on course to bring life back to its rivers through full implementation and enforcement of the law.
    The message from the European Commission is clear: the WFD is a critical pillar of the EU's environmental legislation and is here to stay in its current form. The fitness-check results highlight that the delay in reaching the WFD's objectives is "largely due to insufficient funding, slow implementation and insufficient integration of environmental objectives in sectoral policies; and not due to a deficiency in the legislation."
    The conclusions come hot on the heels of the European Environment Agency's State of the Environment Report 2020, which highlighted the WFD as being essential to halting and reversing biodiversity loss. The conclusions are strongly supported by WWF (including WWF Central and Eastern Europe), EEB, Wetlands International, the European Rivers Network and European Anglers Alliance - who together form the Living Rivers Europe coalition and led the #ProtectWater campaign to safeguard the WFD.
    "By signing off the Water Framework Directive as fit for purpose, the European Commission is standing shoulder to shoulder with the hundreds of thousands of European citizens, scientists and civil society groups who have all championed the WFD over the past two years."  - Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at  WWF's European Policy Office and Chair of the Living Rivers Europe Coalition
    Yesterday, the European Commission published the European Green Deal, which proposes drafting a nature restoration plan and the green oath to "do no harm." Both will be critical for ensuring that the objectives of the WFD will be met. In the Danube Basin, 80% of floodplains have been lost but many could be restored. Hydropower, navigation and flood protection infrastructure plans are in preparation that require proper biodiversity safeguards or should be dropped altogether in order to ensure that no harm will be done.
    "For 20 years we have been battling Member States to properly implement the Water Framework Directive as the most sustainable way of restoring fish stocks for the millions of anglers who take part in recreational fishing, the thousands of jobs that depend on angling together with the rural economies that directly benefit from angling tourism. Now that the fitness check has determined that the WFD is not only fit for purpose, but that failure is due to lack of implementation by Member States, we would expect urgent action to conform with the present legal requirements to deliver for fish and fishing." - Mark Owen, Freshwater Policy Advisor to the European Anglers Alliance and Living Rivers Europe partner
    Support for the WFD stretches far and wide
    Just last week, an open letter from 5,500+ scientists was sent to Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Sinkevičius, calling on them to "save and implement the Water Framework Directive" in order to halt and reverse the catastrophic decline in freshwater biodiversity. Earlier this year, 375,386 citizens took a stand for the WFD through the #ProtectWater campaign, which facilitated citizens' participation in the European Commission's public consultation on the WFD (the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the fitness-check) to express their clear opposition to changing the legislation. This made the public consultation on the WFD the third largest in the history of the EU. It went on to be supported by more than 130 civil society organisations, including national partners and offices of Greenpeace, BirdLife and Friends of the Earth, as well as unions.
    A well-enforced WFD must be at the heart of the European Green Deal
    The gifts people and nature receive from healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands are key to delivering the four main pillars of the European Green Deal. From supporting climate adaptation to protecting biodiversity, fuelling sustainable food systems to thriving economies, a strong WFD forms the necessary baseline to secure all the benefits healthy freshwater ecosystems provide.
    Next steps
    Looking ahead, it is now important to pull all efforts towards reaching the objectives of the WFD by 2027. There is a long way to go. Sixty percent of EU surface waters are not healthy, failing to meet the WFD's standards. Last week's State of the Environment Report 2020 showed that out of the four freshwater indicators analysed by the EEA, only one has shown progress over the last 10-15 years. For all indicators, the outlook to 2030 is "a mixed picture."
    However, Member States are now finalising their plans to achieve the WFD's objectives during the 2022-2027 cycle (known as River Basin Management Plans). This is an unparalleled opportunity for them to speed-up their efforts on water protection. The European Commission needs to embark all actors together in an ambitious vision for healthy and clean waters in Europe, one which requires political will, enforcement of the legislation, and investments.
    For more information:
    Irene Lucius
    Regional Conservation Director,
    WWF Central and Eastern Europe
    ilucius@wwfcee.org, Tel: +43 1 52 45 470 19 
    Sophie Bauer
    Communications Officer (Freshwater),
    WWF European Policy Office
    +32 471 05 25 11

  • Poblaciones vulnerables frente al cambio climático

    Pueblos indígenas de Perú © Christian Oses - WWFPerú 

    • Pueblos Indígenas, actores determinantes en la COP25 - Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático.
    • Pueblos indígenas y sus territorios son los más afectados por el cambio climático.

    El 2 de diciembre se dio inicio a la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (COP 25), con un fuerte llamado a la acción para hacer frente a la inminente crisis climática que atravesamos. Según la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU), los últimos cuatro años han sido los más calurosos de la historia y las temperaturas invernales del Ártico han aumentado 3 °C desde 1990. En ese contexto, el mensaje principal de esta COP 25 es aumentar la ambición climática para salvar al planeta, hogar de la humanidad y así limitar el aumento de las temperaturas promedio globales a 1.5 grados centígrados.

    Según comentó Manuel Pulgar Vidal, director de Clima y Energía de WWF, nos encontramos en un contexto de urgencia frente a la crisis climática y por esta razón, el progreso en la COP 25 y la implementación de acciones concretas es esencial. Todos los países deben realizar una contribución justa y cumplir con los compromisos climáticos, especialmente aquellos que son históricamente responsables del problema y que poseen más recursos.

    El 2020 es un año clave para tomar decisiones políticas que afectarán la salud de nuestro planeta y nuestro futuro en las próximas décadas. Necesitamos aprovechar esta oportunidad para asegurar un compromiso internacional y de esta manera, lograr un cambio hacia economías sociales y ambientalmente sostenibles.

    Acción indígena por el clima

    Los pueblos indígenas y sus territorios son los más afectados por el cambio climático, y son los primeros que están asumiendo las consecuencias, pero a la vez, son quienes mejor conservan y custodian los ecosistemas globales, brindan soluciones prácticas y efectivas frente a la crisis climática y dan alternativas para la adaptación y mitigación. Sus opiniones, preocupaciones, derechos y contribuciones deben ser reconocidos en este espacio y deben ser tomados en cuenta en la toma de decisiones.

    "Gracias a su contribución, han implementado acciones concretas que aumentan la ambición climática, promoviendo la creación de sinergias entre los gobiernos y otros actores de la sociedad civil para cumplir con los compromisos climáticos, lograr la distribución de beneficios para la conservación forestal y potenciar los esfuerzos para reducir las emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero" comentó Alonso Córdova, coordinador del Programa de Bosques de WWF Perú.

    Como en años anteriores, los pueblos indígenas del Perú están presentes en la COP 25 dando a conocer sus avances en REDD + indígena amazónico, contribución a la construcción del mecanismo REDD+ que no solo busca dar prioridad a la conservación y el manejo de los bosques y territorios para nuestra vida, sino que impulsa la cooperación, y propone alternativas para hacer frente al cambio climático con su participación. Además expondrán su trabajo en monitoreo de vigilancia comunal y alerta temprana y su incidencia en las políticas públicas nacionales, incluyendo su visión para combatir el cambio climático en el marco de su gobernanza sobre sus territorios ygarantizando la conservación integral de sus bosques, claves para la agenda climática global.