China's rising wood imports a threat to the world's forests | WWF

China's rising wood imports a threat to the world's forests

Posted on 08 March 2005
There has been some confusion over the figures for total imports for wood products - please see the special footnote at the bottom of this article.
Gland, Switzerland/Hong Kong SAR – Because of its rapidly rising demand for wood, China is set to lead the world's wood market and this will have devastating impacts on some of the planet's outstanding forests unless major changes are made in the country's current policies, a new WWF report warns. 
According to the report, China’s Wood Market, Trade and the Environment, more than half of the timber imported by China comes from countries such as Russia, Malaysia and Indonesia, which are all struggling with problems such as over-harvesting, conversion of natural forests and illegal logging. China is one of the major destinations for wood that may be illegally harvested or traded, it says. 
The report indicates that while the average Chinese citizen uses 17 times less wood than a person in the US, China's wood imports have dramatically increased over the past ten years and will continue to do so to meet the demand of the country's huge population and rapid economic growth.

The report also found that measures taken by the Chinese government to protect its forests – including a ban on logging – after the 1998 devastating Yangtze River flooding have resulted in a significant drop in China's domestic wood production.

The country's forests and plantations will provide less than half of China's expected total industrial wood demand by 2010, and this puts more pressure on the forests of the countries that export timber, the report stresses. 
"China's efforts so far in forest restoration and forest sustainable management are a good start towards preserving valuable and threatened forests," said Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "But logging bans in China should not lead to forest loss in other parts of the world. Decisive action is needed to ensure that supply chains leading to or through China begin with well-managed forests." 
WWF believes that China’s demand for wood from regions where forest management is poor could be reduced by developing environmentally responsible wood production in some of the country's forests where logging is currently banned.

The report also suggests that incentives are created to improve the efficiency of wood production and use in China, and reduce the waste of timber. 
Furthermore, WWF calls on both governments and the private sector to take concerted measures to promote imports and purchases of wood from well-managed forests.

Such measures include responsible procurement policies, use of systems to trace wood from its source to final use, forest certification, enforcement of government policies and regulations to prevent the import of products containing illegally-sourced wood, and cooperation with other nations to combat illegal trade of forest products. 
"China will soon be leading the global wood market, we hope that it will also lead the efforts to safeguard the world's forests," said Dr. Zhu Chunquan, Director of WWF China's Forest Programme. 
The new WWF report was released today in Hong Kong at a meeting on illegal logging organized by The Forests Dialogue, a forum for trade associations, major corporations and government officials, among others.

The China Forest and Trade Network (FTN) was also launched at that event, as part of a global WWF initiative to facilitate market links between companies committed to responsible forestry and purchasing of forest products. 
1. The Forests Dialogue (TFD), formed in 1999, is an outgrowth of dialogues begun under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The World Bank and The World Resources Institute. These dialogues converged to create TFD when leaders decided there needed to be an on-going, civil society driven, multi-stakeholder dialogue platform to address important global forestry issues.
2. The China Forest and Trade Network is a crucial addition to the Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), WWF’s initiative to eliminate illegal logging, improve the management of the world's valuable and threatened forests, and promote credible forest certification. By providing support to and facilitating trade links between progressive forest industry companies, the GFTN seeks to create market conditions that will help conserve the world’s forests while providing economic and social benefits for the businesses and people that depend on them.   

Contrary to some news reports, the China study launched on March 8, 2005 predicts that total imports for wood products will rise by approximately one third over the seven year period from 2003 to 2010, from 94 million cubic meters roundwood equivalent (RWE) to 125 million cubic meters RWE.  The confusion, which led to some stories reporting three-fold increase in imports by 2010, appears to be based on the finding  that China's total imports of timber in 2003 amounted to 42 millon cubic meters RWE.  Timber imports, however, are not the same as total imports, as they exclude wood products such as paper and pulp.
For further information:
Kate Fuller, Communications Officer  
WWF Asia-Pacific Forest Programme
Tel: +62 812 382 8011
An Yan, Communications Officer
WWF China Programme
Tel: +86 135 0121 0386
Soh Koon Chng, Communiations Manager
WWF Global Forest Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 90 18   

Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer
WWF International Press Office
Tel: +41 22 364 95 54 
There has been some confusion over the figures for total imports for wood products - please see the special footnote at the bottom of this article.