COP15 Montreal: Coalition calls for a moratorium on industrial activities in primary forests

Primary Forest Alliance calls for policy changes in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Friday 09 December 2022
Primary Forest Alliance at COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal, Canada. PHoto: One Earth
Primary Forest Alliance at COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal, Canada. PHoto: One Earth Primary Forest Alliance at COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal, Canada. PHoto: One Earth

A coalition has called upon world leaders to protect primary forests as part of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada.

The environmental group Primary Forest Alliance (PFA) has demanded a moratorium on industrial development in primary forests across the globe. The woods are irreplaceable ecosystems that protect most of the planet’s terrestrial species and its largest terrestrial carbon stocks.

A trillion dollars are spent every year subsidising extractive industries, said Cyril Kormos, member of PFA and executive director of non-profit project Wild Heritage. Less than 3 per cent of climate funding is, however, spent on forests and even less on primary ones.

Read more: Last look: Consensus on Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework draft remains elusive during final pre-COP15 meet

“If we redirected those two very large sources of funding, there would be enough to support protected areas, indigenous and local communities for conservation work to protect the planet’s primary forests,” said Kormos.

PFA has several signatories, like the journal One Earth, the pan-Amazonian Indigenous federation, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), research group, environmental organisation the Sierra Club, United States-based non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, non-profit the Society for Conservation Biology and retailer Patagonia.

The members are trying to launch a call for a moratorium on industrial activities inside primary forests on December 10, 2022, at COP15, as these forests are “essential and irreplaceable and vital”.

“We are also advocating for clear text in the GBF recognising and prioritising the importance of primary forests. We will not have a credible GBF outcome if primary forests, which are the most carbon-dense and most biodiversity-rich terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, are not clearly protected and clearly recognised,” Kormos added.

PFA is looking for policy change in the targets of the GBF, specifically targets 1, 3 and 8, he said.

“Primary forests and ecosystems need to be integrated into the targets along with concepts like ecosystem integrity, synergistic climate and biodiversity outcomes. These problems can’t be solved by themselves,” he added.

The call-to-action for PFA is titled Avoid the point of no return in the Amazon by protecting 80 per cent by 2025. The motion was approved after several debates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference at Marseille and was proposed by COICA, according to PFA. 

COICA is also calling for a global pact to protect the world’s largest tropical forest, which is on the verge of reaching a point of no return.

Read more: COP15 CBD: Disclose biodiversity impact, address harmful subsidies, urges EU

Amazonia needs to be protected at 80 per cent, said Senior Amazon Advisor to Alicia Guzmán León. “Around 277 million hectares of Amazon are primary forests and a third of those forests are in indigenous lands,” she said.

Why isn’t Amazonia being protected by the text of the GBF, she asked. “The tipping point comes we cross a threshold 20-25 per cent (of destruction) of Amazon forests. This may be the last COP where we can still talk about the future of the Amazon,” she said.

People, biodiversity and climate change are all interlinked, said Kormos. Primary forests and other primary ecosystems like wetlands, peatlands and grasslands all need protection.

“Unfortunately, even now, some GBF targets do not capture the importance of keeping primary ecosystems free of industrial activity. We absolutely must do this if we want to safeguard biodiversity,” he said.

They were joined by Hereditary Chief David Mungo Knox, a member of the Kwakiulth First Nations Vancouver Island and Lena Yanina Estrada, COICA.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.