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Coalition calls for a moratorium on industrial activities in primary forests

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

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

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

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

A trillion dollars is spent each year subsidizing the extractive industries, said Cyril Kormos, a member of the PFA and executive director of the non-profit project Wild Heritage. However, less than 3 percent of climate finance is spent on forests and even less on primary forests.

Read more: Last Look: Consensus on draft post-2020 biodiversity framework remains elusive during final meeting before COP15

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

PFA has several signatories, like the Journal one earththe Panamanian Indigenous Federation, the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), research group Stand.earth, environmental organization Sierra Club, United States-based nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, nonprofit conservation biology society, and retailer Patagonia.

Members are attempting to launch a call for a moratorium on industrial activities in primary forests at COP15 on December 10, 2022, as these forests are “essential and irreplaceable and vital”.

“We are also committed to clear text in the GBF that recognizes and prioritizes the importance of primary forests. We will not have a credible GBF outcome unless primary forests, which are the most carbon-dense and biodiversity-rich terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, are unequivocally protected and unequivocally recognized,” Kormos added.

PFA aims to change policy on GBF targets, particularly targets 1, 3 and 8, he said.

“Primary forests and ecosystems need to be integrated into the goals along with concepts such as ecosystem integrity, synergistic climate and biodiversity outcomes. These problems cannot 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 percent by 2025. The proposal was accepted after several debates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in Marseille and proposed by COICA, according to the 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: Disclosing impacts on biodiversity, tackling harmful subsidies, EU demands

Amazonia needs to be 80 percent protected, said Stand.earth Senior Amazon Advisor Alicia Guzmán León. “Some 277 million hectares of the Amazon are primary forests and a third of those forests are on indigenous lands,” she said.

Why is Amazonia not protected by the text of the GBF, she asked. “The tipping point comes when we cross a threshold of 20-25 percent (of destruction) of Amazon forests. This could be the last COP where we can talk about the future of the Amazon,” she said.

People, biodiversity and climate change are all interconnected, Kormos said. Primary forests and other primary ecosystems such as wetlands, bogs 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 have to do that if we want to protect 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.

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