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ASEAN Leaders Can Act to Reduce Fires and Haze

For further reading, see our op-ed in the Jakarta Post.

Less than four months ago, millions of people across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were choking on the worst air pollution ever recorded in Southeast Asia as hundreds of fires burned across Sumatra. The fires caused serious damage, eliciting a public health emergency, closing schools and harming tourism and other businesses.

This week the Sultan of Brunei is hosting many of Asia’s heads of state for the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. Preventing new fires and haze are high on the agenda. Key decisions and actions are urgently needed from the presidents and prime ministers this week.

Leveling the Playing Field for Legal Timber in Brazil

Brazil is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. What is less known is that the country is the fourth largest industrial roundwood (timber left as logs, not sawn into planks) and wood pulp producer and ninth largest paper producer in the world. Brazil’s forest sector contributed 5 percent to the national gross domestic product in 2012. Brazil’s forests are not only home to communities and a haven for biodiversity, they are also part of the country’s economic backbone.

Brazil’s government has made impressive progress towards balancing forest protection and production. In 2012, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to its lowest rate in more than two decades. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has pioneered the use of satellite data to prevent illegal logging. And the forest sector uses the Forest Source Document system (Documento de Origem Florestal, DOF), a sophisticated electronic system to track the wood flow throughout the supply chain.

Despite these positive steps, illegal logging and associated trade in the Amazon continues. Beyond the negative social and environmental impacts, illegal logging poses a serious problem for businesses producing legal wood products. With a price difference of up to 40 percent, legal wood simply cannot compete with cheaper illegal wood.

To reduce illegal logging and support the legal actors in the forest sector, Brazil must strengthen its forest control systems and policies.

Indonesia Burning: Forest Fires Flare To Alarming Levels

Fires were ablaze once more on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, reaching levels almost as high as those of June 2013, when neighboring Singapore and Malaysia were smothered by record-breaking smog and haze. NASA satellites registered a total of 734 high-confidence fire alerts in Sumatra’s provinces for the period August 22-27. Fire alert numbers declined significantly August 28-29.

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