Industry and NGOs urge EU to ban illegal timber
A statement promoted by the three NGOs and signed by over 70 European companies was presented today at a conference on illegal logging, governance and trade, organised by FERN, Greenpeace and WWF at the European Parliament.
Companies such as B&Q, Homebase and Habitat (UK), Castorama (France), IKEA and Skanska (Sweden), Unital (Union of Italian Industries of Wood Furniture), JYSK Nordic (Denmark) and Puertas Luvipol (Spain) are calling for clear rules in Europe for fair competition and sustainable markets.
"Cheap imports of illegal timber and the non-compliance of some firms with basic social and environmental standards destabilise international markets, threaten jobs and create unfair competition. Without a clear European legal framework, companies that behave responsibly and want to invest in sustainable practices will always be disadvantaged," said André de Boer, Director of the Dutch Timber Trade Federation.
"As one of the largest importers of illegally sourced timber and related products, the EU has the duty to assume its responsibility by stopping these activities," said Beatrix Richards, European Forest Policy Officer at WWF.
"Industry and NGOs are united in saying that the EU must take immediate action to create accountability in this sector by adopting new legislation and promoting sustainable forest management worldwide."
Illegal logging contributes heavily to the destruction of biodiversity and the impoverishment of millions of people that depend on forests for food and income. It fuels social conflict and is frequently associated with organised crime.
To address this problem, the EU Commission adopted in May 2003 an Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and submitted to the Council a proposal for voluntary partnership agreements with producer countries aimed at improving governance in the forestry sector and implementing a traceability system to ensure that only timber licensed as legal will be exported to the EU.
Although the proposal could under certain conditions have a positive impact, NGOs and industry agree that a voluntary approach alone is insufficient to tackle the problem.
"The timber sector is unusual in that it gives consumers no guarantee of the legality of the products they buy," said Fiona Hall and Chris Davies, members of the European Parliament, ALDE Group.
"As members of the European Parliament, we intend to represent the public interest and demand that the Commission deliver a report on legislative options to tackle illegal logging that it promised for mid-2004."
Environmental NGOs have also highlighted that unsustainable logging and trade can be as destructive as illegal logging, and are calling for the EU to be clear that tackling illegal logging is just the first step on the road to achieving sustainable forest management.
"The remaining forest surface of our planet is melting like snow in the sun due to the greed of a few people," said Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace's Director of EU forest policy.
"We need to act now to guarantee sustainable management of this common good, with the full involvement of local populations and within the framework of sustainable development and poverty reduction."
• The industry statement follows the publication of a similar statement signed by some 180 NGOs and the release of a legislative proposal commissioned by WWF, Greenpeace and FERN in December 2004.
• Illegal harvesting operations are often associated with corruption and organised crime and according to the World Bank, cost governments in developing countries an estimated 10-15 billion euros every year in lost revenues. This overshadows the European Commission’s annual development assistance budget of approximately 10 billion euros. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a report published last month that better management of the world's forests is crucial to reducing conflict and avoiding war in regions like Africa.
• FLEGT is next due to be debated at ministerial level at the 30 May Agriculture Council. A letter sent from DG Trade on behalf of Commission President Barroso to Greenpeace said: "It is our intention to report back to Council on the assessment of additional legislative measures before the Summer break".
• For a full criticism and political recommendations regarding the FLEGT licensing scheme and partnership agreements, see http://eu.greenpeace.org/issues/forests.html
For further information:
Claudia Delpero, Press Officer,
WWF European Policy Office,
Tel: +32 2 740 0925,
Lucia Appleby, Communications Manager,
Tel: +44 7843 09 3550,
Katharine Mill, Media Officer,
Greenpeace European Unit,
Tel: +32 2 274 1903
Mobile: +32 496 156 229,