Protectionist Green NGOs are Hurting the World’s Poor

COMMENTARY International Economies

Protectionist Green NGOs are Hurting the World’s Poor

Jul 22, 2011 2 min read

Former Research Fellow For Economic Freedom and Growth

James M. Roberts' primary responsibility was to edit the Rule of Law and Monetary Freedom sections of Index of Economic Freedom.

Wrongheaded environmental policies and “green” protectionism are endangering millions of jobs and costing consumers in both developing and developed countries. A new report about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global forest certification organization, entitled “Stop the War on the Poor—FSC and NGOs: Environmental Mythology,” highlights one aspect of the problem.

The report, by the storied Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) that led the civil rights battles of the 1960s, details how green nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the FSC threaten companies and consumers into using more expensive FSC-certified paper products. This shackles developing economies into the poverty trap and raises costs for consumers in the U.S., which, in turn, is particularly hard on America’s minority communities.

The FSC receives U.S. and EU taxpayer-funded grants as well as contributions from dozens of extremist green NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Foundation for Ecological Research in the Northeast (FERN), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the U.S.’s National Wildlife Federation. The FSC claims to be an independent organization established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.

Yet the FSC certification process has evolved into a scheme that disproportionately protects the interests of Western paper producers to the detriment of the developing world. For instance, wood products from forest land converted after 1994 cannot attain certification under FSC’s statute. This condition puts developing countries at a serious disadvantage, because their industries’ technological advances to produce wood products have greatly accelerated since that arbitrary year. The beneficiaries are Western countries that developed their forest land decades earlier to generate economic development. Now they want protection from competition and are using the FSC to deny economic growth opportunities to the developing world.

Ironically, CORE’s new report includes a new finding that flies in the face of green NGOs’ affinity for FSC: some FSC-approved products contain tropical forest species such as red lauan (shorea), a species listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

As Heritage has reported, Western governments, large timber companies, and agribusinesses are increasingly using the environmentalist movement and its policy arm of green NGOs to justify the imposition of protectionist non-tariff barriers on developing countries. In a time of deepening economic crisis worldwide, radical environmental interests should block neither the developing world’s access to global markets nor the developed world’s poorer consumers’ access to quality products at low prices.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal