Halting Deforestation and Forest Certification. What is the Macro-impact of the Forest Stewardship Council?
Deforestation is threatening biodiversity and contributing to climate change. Halting deforestation is one of the key challenges for local and global governance. In recent years one can observe the emergence and proliferation of new governance mechanisms which aim to manage forests sustainably. One of these new mechanisms, which has received increasing attention in the literature, is certification by non-state actors. Certification implies, in this context, that forest management or timber products meet specified standards. In the context of timber and forest certification several certification initiatives have emerged of which the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the most widely distributed and most credible initiative. This type of non-state market regulation of forests is by some authors regarded as one of the key mechanisms for global forest governance. Little empirical research has been conducted on the macro-impact of certification. The paper aims to make a contribution to this effort and focuses on the FSC as a specific case study. The paper analyzes two types of impact. On the one hand, the paper assesses the degree to which certification contributes to halting deforestation as a key component of sustainable forest management. On the other hand, the paper assesses the macro-impact of certification on governance since this is relevant in the context of Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) and emerging global forest carbon schemes to halt deforestation and forest degradation (i.e. REDD), and refers to key principles outlined by the Forest Stewardship Council. The paper uses a dataset which contains originally collected data on FSC-certified forest surface area from nearly 1.000 forests worldwide and combines this with data from the FAO (forest coverage data), human development index and governance indicators in order to assess the potential and limits of forest certification as a governance tool to halt deforestation and develop sound (forest) governance. The paper shows that there is little impact on halting deforestation and that only a small proportion of forests worldwide is FSC certified. However, the paper does find significant variation in forest area certified between countries (especially in developed countries) pointing to the potential of forest certification. The paper further explores this finding by linking it to socio-economic development, ownership of forests and uses of forests. The paper finds a 'stuck at the bottom' problem which is related to the development levels of countries. Secondly the paper finds no direct impact on governance, as measured by the Worldbank Governance Indicators. The implication, both in term of opportunities and limitations are further discussed.