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Last week, the European Environmental Paper Network, with help from BankTrack, hosted an international meeting of conservationists in the Netherlands.  The event included seminars and discussions on finance and investment in the pulp and paper industry. As the world faces projections of double the demand for paper products in just the next few decades, twenty-eight NGOs from 5 continents converged for this training and dialogue on ethical financing.

The focus was on the critical knowledge of social and environmental risks that non-governmental organisations can provide to investors.  This information and advocacy can steer away poor investments in damaging projects before they are built, and towards more ethical and environmentally responsible projects. Presentations from executives representing ING and Rabobank, two of the Netherlands largest banks, offered the chance for the participants to gain additional perspective.

By chance, the event occurred on the eve of a vote in the Tasmanian Parliament to allow the sale and transfer to any company of the permit to build the notorious and defeated Gunns pulp mill. Tasmania’s endangered native forests remain a global priority for protection, and the organisations gathered decided to communicate that again to the government decision makers, and potential investors. The letter that was sent is below the photo. To download the letter click here.

These incredible Tassie forests are unfortunately facing other related threats right now. After a decades-long campaign, critical areas of Tasmania’s spectacular ancient forests were officially protected with World Heritage status in June last year. For the first time ever, this was supported by the Tasmanian timber industry and unions. But now the government is seeking to delist 74,000 hectares of this forest and roll back protections. Learn more and take a simple action here to support the citizens of Tasmania seeking to protect these irreplaceable old-growth forests.

Together, we can make a difference for the world’s forests.

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Joint Statement to the Parliament and people of Tasmania from non-government organisations attending an international meeting on Stopping Irresponsible Investment in Pulp and Paper Mills organised by the Environmental Paper Network (EPN & EEPN) 

Heemskerk, the Netherlands – 27th January 2014

We are deeply concerned by the re-emergence of the Gunns pulp mill project in Tasmania, Australia for well documented environmental and social reasons.

We have been informed and are dismayed to learn of the efforts being made in Tasmania to revive this project, and of the secrecy surrounding the bidders for Gunns’ assets, including the Permit to build and operate the pulp mill.

This pulp mill project was never able to satisfy environmental assessment procedures, was withdrawn from the formal assessment process when the company was informed that they were not compliant with the environmental requirements, and instead a fast track approval via the Tasmanian Parliament overrode due process. The right of citizens to be heard and for environmental and social problems to be exposed and rigorously examined was denied.

An undertaking eventually made by Gunns Ltd to utilise only plantation resource for this project was unilateral and is not a condition on the Permit. Hence we also fear that this may lead to the use of native forest as feedstock for the mill by a different proponent, possibly including forests assessed and agreed as high conservation value. Further, we are puzzled that the Tasmanian Parliament would intervene to negate a legal judgement on the continued validity of the pulp mill Permit.

We are also concerned to learn that the Tasmanian Parliament and people of Tasmania have no knowledge of which companies are to potentially benefit from the enactment of the proposed Doubts Removal Bill, and that the new law would allow the transfer of the Permit to any company, no matter their environmental, social or financial reputation.

Buyers and investors should be aware of the potential environmental and social risks connected to the Gunns pulp mill project.

This statement is issued by 28 NGOs attending from Asia, Europe, North and South America and Australia, including Global Forest Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Global Witness, ECA Watch Austria, BankTrack, Markets For Change,  Quercus – ANCN, Buy Responsibly Foundation,  Denkhausbremen, and Friends of the Siberian Forests Russia.

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The letter can also be found on the website of EPN member organisations, Markets for Change.