EU to close its doors to illegal timber
New legislation governing the trade in timber and wood-based products is expected by July. A landmark deal was struck between the European Parliament, the EU member states and the European Commission on Wednesday 16th June 2010 that will see the banning of illegally logged timber from the EU market. The details of the ban are not official yet, and the legislation is not formally in place.
18th June 2010
Illegal logging poses a significant threat to forests as it contributes to the process of deforestation, which is responsible for about 20% of CO2 emissions, threatens biodiversity and undermines sustainable forest management and development.
The EU is the world’s biggest market for illegal timber. Between 20 and 40 percent of global industrial wood production is thought to come from illegal sources, with up to 20 percent of this ending up on EU markets - worth some €1.2 billion.
In a key move that goes beyond leaving the burden at the level of due diligence, as member states had initially preferred, companies will have to trace such products and raw timber all the way back to the country and place where the wood was originally harvested.
Most member states in the end backed the bill, with Sweden and Portugal - both major manufacturers of forestry products - mounting the stiffest opposition.
The bill also strengthens bilateral agreements with tropical countries through an EU programme to stop the entry of illegal timber into Europe.
“Ireland has a particular responsibility for deforestation and illegal logging as economic development and consumption in this country is very much dependent upon natural resources from other parts of the world, in particular some of the poorest countries of Africa, Latin America and S.E. Asia, this is particularly true for timber”, according to Tom Roche, coordinator of Just Forests, who has actively campaigned on this issue for over two decades.
"If this law is passed, illegal timber will be banned from Europe. The world's largest market is about to shut its gates to companies profiting from illegal trafficking and forest destruction," said, Sebastien Risso, a forests campaigner with Greenpeace. "The black market for wood products is often run by criminals fuelling conflict, robbing governments of revenue and causing irreversible environmental destruction."
Campaigners did not win everything they had been seeking, however. Green groups lamented that no EU-wide sanction regime was imposed for flouting the law and printed materials including books are exempt for another five years.
Most of the logging in tropical and boreal regions focuses on high-value trees that are exported for consumption in Europe and Asia. While China’s import of tropical timber is skyrocketing, only half of it is actually consumed in China, the other half is re-exported to EU countries, like Ireland, in the form of wood products (plywood for hoarding, flooring, furniture, etc) and is often the results of illegal logging.
However, the law must still be officially endorsed by the member states and a full sitting of the parliament.
“We are calling on the Irish government to support this EU-wide ban when it is voted on by the EU Parliament on the 6th of July”, states Roche.
This will be the last step before formally adopting the legislation by the member states.
Notes to Editors
About Just Forests
Irish Woodworkers for Africa Ltd, T/A Just Forests is an Irish charity founded in 1989. We use society’s dependence on wood and the state of the world’s forests to make links between ‘development’ and poverty. We promote a ‘livelihood’ approach to forest conservation that embraces, economic, social, environmental, ecological and spiritual relationships. Our development education (DE) work includes the very popular hands-on, travelling exhibition the Wood of Life which emphasizes the urgent need of education for sustainable development (ESD) in all sectors of Irish life -Exhibition Venues for 2010
White Paper on Irish Aid 2006.
The Government intends that every person in Ireland will have access to educational opportunities to understand their rights and responsibilities as global citizens as well as their potential to effect change for a more just and equal world.
What is Sustainable Development?
The concept of Sustainable Development emerged from a growing concern about human impacts on the environment and was defined in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission (formally the World Commission on Environment and Development) as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”1. This definition outlined the need for development to meet human needs and improve the quality of life but highlighted the need for responsible use of our natural resources.
What is Development Education (DE)?
Development education is an educational process aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of the rapidly changing, interdependent and unequal world in which we live. It seeks to engage people in analysis, reflection and action for local and global citizenship and participation. It is about supporting people in understanding, and in acting to transform the social, cultural, political and economic structures which affect their lives and the lives of others at personal, community, national and international levels. (Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2007-2011 ‘Promoting Public Engagement for Development’)
What is Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)?
Education for Sustainable Development develops and strengthens the capacity of individuals, groups, communities and organisations to make judgements and choices in favour of sustainable development2. The four main thrusts of ESD were defined by Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit3:
• promotion and improvement of basic education
• reorientation of existing education programs
• developing public understanding and awareness of sustainability
Key themes in ESD include: poverty alleviation, citizenship, peace, ethics, responsibility in local and global contexts, democracy and governance, justice, security, human rights, health, gender equity, cultural diversity, production and consumption patterns, corporate responsibility, environmental protection, natural resource management and biological and landscape diversity.
What is the UN Decade of ESD?
To promote education and life-long learning as a means towards Sustainable Development, the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is running from 2005 to 2014. The goal of the Decade, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, is to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behavior that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations4.
What is illegal logging?
Illegal logging and the international trade in illegally logged timber is a major problem for many timber-producing countries in the developing world. It causes environmental damage, costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, promotes corruption, undermines the rule of law and good governance and funds armed conflict. It retards sustainable development in some of the poorest countries of the world. Consumer countries contribute to these problems by importing timber and wood products without ensuring that they are legally sourced. In recent years, however, producer and consumer countries alike have paid increasing attention to illegal logging. Consumer countries like Ireland contribute to these problems by importing timber and wood products without ensuring that they are legally sourced through credible third-party verification. Around the world, illegal logging, criminal exploitation and trade in forest resources are destroying forest ecosystems, undermining the livelihoods of local communities and depriving governments in transition of much-needed revenue.
It is estimated that *60% of all tropical timber entering the EU is coming from un-managed forests around the world and is illegally logged (*Stern Review).
What is Independent Forest Certification?
The Forest Stewardship Council enables you to buy forest products of all kinds with confidence that you are not contributing to global forest destruction. FSC certified forests are managed to ensure long term timber supplies while protecting the environment and the lives of forest-dependent peoples. FSC certification can also cover non-timber forest products such as latex and foods. A system of Chain of Custody certification traces forest products through the supply chain to the end-consumer. Whenever you buy timber or timber products always look for the FSC logo. Everyone uses forest products in their business or daily life, and FSC offers solutions. (FSC-UK website).
The Political Process: FLEGT
In May 2003 the European Commission presented an Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). This marked the beginning of a long process which the EU aims to develop and implement measures to address illegal logging and related trade. Measures proposed in the FLEGT Action Plan include support for improved governance in wood-producing countries and voluntary partnerships between the EU and wood-producing countries to ensure that only legally sourced timber enters the EU. The FLEGT Action Plan also puts emphasis on demand-side measures to reduce consumption of illegally harvested timber. Council Conclusions were adopted in October 2003 and the European Parliament passed a motion of support in January 2004.
The FLEGT Action Plan describes a package of measures, including:
• support for improved governance and capacity building in timber producing countries
• encouraging the private sector to adopt purchasing policies to exclude illegal timber from their supply chains
• promotion of public procurement policies
• encouraging measures to avoid investment in activities that encourage illegal logging
• support to governments who want to ensure that illegally-harvested timber from their territory is not admitted to the EU market.
Biodiversity includes the living resources we all use for food, fuel, shelter, medicine, crafts and tools – such as trees, wild animals, crops, livestock, mushrooms and so on. It is fundamental to human development and the well-being of us all. It is now clearly established that the loss of biodiversity leads to poverty, hunger, dependency and in some countries , conflict and war. Biodiversity is all forms of life on our planet –including plants, fungi, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals –and their habitats.
The Global estimate of biodiversity.
* Excluding micro-organisms: 12 million
* Including micro-organisms: up to 30 million
* An estimated 1.4 million have been described
* The two most species-rich biomes on earth are tropical rainforests and coral reefs.
Disappearing life-forms in forests:
* Only 20% (1,350 million hectares) of the original forest cover remains as ancient forests, still undisturbed by industrial activities. Almost half of these are threatened.
* 70% of the ancient forests under threat are endangered by illegal and destructive logging
* 75% of the world’s land-based animal and plant species, many threatened by extinction through habitat loss, are found in forests
* 8,700 of the more than 100,000 species of trees worldwide are threatened
* In 10 years our nearest relatives, all four species of primate, will be extinct, if the current rate of extinction continues
* About 70% of the planet is covered by oceans
* 75% of the world’s fisheries are over-exploited, depleted, recovering from depletion or fully exploited
* 30% of fish caught in commercial fisheries are discarded each year and thrown overboard dead or dying
* About 28,000 species of fish are known in the world today. 7,000 of them are caught by commercial and recreational fisheries or used by the aquarium trade and aquacultures
* Over 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed every year by human activities.
If I hire a couple of blokes with automatic weapons, break into a garden center in Dublin, and take, at gun-point, fifty prize roses, I have committed a crime. If I drive those roses to Belfast and sell them to ‘Don’t Care DIY Store’, ‘Don’t Care’ doesn't own them, and if it sells them suspecting I stole them, ‘Don’t Care DIY Store’ has also committed a crime.
If a logging contractor does the same thing in Tanzania, or the Amazon, and gets the wood to Ireland, they're home free. Same thing if they sell the logs in China and the mahogany, teak or bintangor, ends up in furniture in the ‘Furniture Heaven Shop’ in Tullamore or plywood in ‘McCarenot Timber Supplies’ in Bray. Illegal trade is one of the huge stories being ignored by politicians, many governments and the mainstream media. More than half of all tropical deforestation is estimated to be the result of illegal logging, and deforestation is causing 20% of total global CO2 emissions.