The Tokyo 2020 Games are killing Asian rainforests

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The Japanese have a word to convey a sense of regret concerning waste: mottainai 勿体無い. It can be used as an exclamation – as in “What a waste of food!” – or a slogan for local environmentalists to encourage environmental sustainability.

So it came as no surprise that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games organisers and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made a commitment to making sustainability an integral part of the Games.But as construction begins on facilities to support the mammoth undertaking that comes with hosting the Olympics, environmental groups are already up in arms about its effect on mother nature, specifically rainforests in the region.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee has confirmed that 87% of the plywood panels used to build its new national stadium come from southeast Asian rainforests.

But the timber cannot be traced back to its original source under the committees’s certification protocols, which have been censured by campaigners for a lack of due diligence.

The Olympics is supposed to celebrate human achievement and global solidarity, not be built on top of human rights violations and environmental destruction from remote corners of the world.

On paper, the Tokyo committee’s sustainable sourcing code requires that the timber it uses is legal, planned, and “considerate” towards ecosystems, indigenous peoples and workers, who should be appropriately protected. However, it has no obligation for full traceability back to the forest of origin, even when timber is sourced from high risk countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Hana Heineken, a senior campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, said: “The overwhelming majority of wood used [in the Tokyo stadium] was uncertified plywood extracted from tropical rainforests in Indonesia, an epicentre of biodiversity that is suffering from one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation.”

Indonesia and Malaysia were among the top 10 countries suffering dense tree cover loss in 2016, much of it linked to oil palm, pulp and paper industries. Around the world, an area of forest the size of New Zealand – 29.7m hectares – disappeared that year, the highest level on record. 

Sources: The Guardian link - SCMP link