FSC proves resilience, paves way for a stronger future
WWF played an important role as a key stakeholder in the Assembly, particularly in passing four historic motions that will be critical in driving the uptake of FSC certification while ensuring that it delivers environmental and social gains.
First, a motion calling for FSC to operate according to a mission-driven strategy and priorities will allow the certification body to focus on achieving higher order priorities rather than reacting to a multitude of pet issues.
Second is a motion opening the way to flexibility for FSC certification to apply to plantations and restoration on land cleared after 1994, linked to willingness of the land manager to compensate for past forest loss. This makes FSC more relevant in frontier regions where most of the world’s recent forest loss has occurred, and where forests are most vulnerable to future loss.
Third, a decision was reached to strengthen protection for intact forest landscapes (IFL) within certified forests. This allows for national stakeholders to determine exactly how FSC can contribute most to the protection of IFLs in the specific circumstances of each country, without undermining the viability of FSC certification.
Fourth was a motion calling for FSC to incorporate new and innovative approaches to dealing with challenges facing smallholders – a group that often struggles with attaining FSC certification due to cost and demand issues – and generate a market strategy to prevent small producers and communities from continuing to lose certificates, as has been the case in Latin America.
"The General Assembly demonstrated that FSC’s diverse membership can come together and find practical solutions to conserve forests, even on issues where there’s disagreement," said Rod Taylor, Director, WWF International Forest Programme. "FSC has emerged stronger than ever and true to its mission of promoting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests."
FSC is the world’s largest and most recognized third party forest certification system and the General Assembly – the organization’s highest decision-making body – meets every three years. WWF is an active stakeholder in FSC, which remains, to date, the scheme that best fulfills WWF’s requirements of a credible certification scheme.
Intact forest landscapes (IFL)
IFLs are unbroken expanse of natural forest and associated non-forest ecosystems – 50,000 hectares or greater in size – that are undisturbed by major roads or economic activities, and are large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained. They are critical for biodiversity conservation in many of the priority ecoregions in which WWF works, such as the Congo Basin, Brazilian Amazon and the Amur-Heilong region. IFLs are critical to the livelihoods of indigenous and other forest-dependent people; they provide optimal habitats for species of conservation concern such as tigers, woodland caribou and primates, and contain vast volumes of carbon that could otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
WWF has long supported the protection of High Conservation Values (HCV) in the FSC certification process. Our organization has called for the strengthening of measures within the system to conserve large intact forest areas while adhering to the core FSC principle of balancing economic, ecological and social values.
The decision of the 600-member General Assembly directs national offices of FSC across the world to develop, modify or strengthen their national and regional standards in order to significantly increase IFL protection. If by the end of 2016 such national approaches are not developed, an automatic rule requiring the protection of 80 per cent of the IFL area within these landbases will come into effect. This provides a strong incentive to FSC national organizations and stakeholders to craft clear locally-appropriate standards for IFL conservation.
"Clearly IFLs deserve enhanced protection, and we also recognize the need for countries and people to benefit from economic development. There will not be one solution that works for the whole world. WWF supported this motion because we believe it allows us to strike this balance, and we will take an active role in the national and regional FSC working groups on IFL conservation," Taylor said. "We will advocate for increased protection of IFLs while taking care to ensure the viability of FSC certification in regions with large intact forest areas, where we consider FSC has the greatest role to play."
The motion received strong support across all three chambers of FSC (economic, social, ecological) including from major forest product companies that have adapted their management practices to protect intact forest landscapes in countries such as Canada, Republic of Congo, Russia, and Brazil. It also received resounding support from representatives of indigenous peoples, whose traditional territories are often located within IFLs.