FERN quits FSC over moves to certify carbon offsets

In a further serious blow to FSC’s credibility, a long-term key NGO supporter of the organistion, FERN, has announced the resignation of its membership.

FERN’s reports on forest certifcation, such as Behind the Logo and Footprints in the Forest helped to prop up the FSC’s credibility for the last decade. They were often cited by holders of FSC certificates as proof of solid NGO support for the organisation.

Now FERN has quit because, it says, “FSC’s increased involvement in forest carbon offsetting breached one of the thresholds for continued FERN membership”. FSC’s consultation on its role in REDD projects is still technically underway. However, FERN has evidently learned the lesson from earlier FSC ‘consultaton’ processs – such as the lengthy exercise on certification of plantations, in which it was closely involved over a period of years, but which was ultimately entirely unproductive – that FSC ‘consultations’ mostly only serve to gather views that the FSC wants to hear, and that the desire to expand the markets for its accredited certification bodies and to increase its own sources of revenue will anyway prevail over all other considerations.

That the FSC is heading for full engagement in certification of REDD project carbon credits is clear from the workings so far of its Forest Carbon Working Group. FSC certification is already used as a ‘proxy’ for ‘sustainable forest management’ in forest carbon offset certification schemes such as VCS – despite the lack of any empirical evidence whatsoever that FSC certified logging is any better for the climate than any other form of logging. Some of FSC’s accredited certifiers, such as Rainforest Alliance, are already collecting fees for issuing certificates for voluntary REDD projects.

The full FERN statement of termination of its FSC membership is available here (pdf, 30kb).

The following summary statement was issued by FERN:

Effective today, 08 June 2011, FERN is terminating its FSC membership

“We regret this step but the FSC’s increased involvement in forest carbon offsetting breached one of the thresholds for continued FERN membership in FSC that was outlined in FERN’s 2010 statement. The 2010 statement reads that ‘If the FSC decides to become actively involved in the certification of carbon forestry practices, including: certification of forest carbon, issuing of FSC certificates concurrently or jointly with carbon credits, or aligning or partnering with voluntary carbon standards, FERN will have to leave the FSC’.

In the run-up to the general assembley, FERN has assessed FSC activities related to forest carbon. We have concluded that the FSC is pro-actively involved in the certification of carbon forestry practises and that the extent of the FSC’s involvement and motions presented to the upcoming GA suggest that this pro-active involvement is likely to continue.

FERN has therefore decided to withdraw its membership in the FSC effective today, 08 June 2011.

As outlined in the statement, if FSC were to both satisfactorily deal with the structural and performance issues outlined in the 2008 joint statement, and clearly state that it does not and will not engage with carbon offsets, FERN would consider re-joining.”

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