Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Britain 'imports more illegal timber than any EU country'

Britain 'imports more illegal timber than any EU country'

By Paul Eccleston

Britain imports more illegal timber than almost any other country in Europe, a new report claims.

· Garden furniture for UK 'from illegally logged rainforest', says report
· UK illegal-logging campaign steps up a gear
· Cameron takes on profiteers of illegal logging

Almost one-fifth of wood imported into the EU in 2006 came from illegal sources, according to WWF. And the UK imported 3.5m cubic metres of illegal wood making it the second biggest importer behind Finland.

WWF has called for an EU law to guarantee that only legal wood is sold in the European market. This included the biggest quantities of furniture, finished wood products, sawn wood and plywood of all EU states.

WWF claims that in total the EU imported between 26.5m and 31m cubic metres of illegal wood and related products in 2006, equal to the total amount of wood harvested in Poland in the same year. Most came from Russia, Indonesia and China.

The conservation organisation claims its findings demonstrated the need for stronger European laws to prevent illegal wood entering EU markets.

Julia Young, manager of the Forest and Trade Network at WWF-UK, said: "Illegal logging reduces the protective function of forests which frequently increases the risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides and leads to deforestation, one of the main causes for climate change.

"Illegal logging also pushes down wood prices leading to major economic losses for the producer states, industries and local communities.
"As the UK clearly plays a major role in fuelling this illegal trade, the Government needs to ensure the EU urgently introduces legislation to prevent illegal timber entering the EU - and thereby help protect the world's last remaining forests."

The study, carried out by WWF in Germany, showed an estimated 23 per cent of wood-based products from illegal or suspect sources were imported from Eastern Europe, 40 per cent from South-East Asia, 30 per cent from Latin America and 36 per cent to 56 per cent from Africa. Finland, UK, Germany and Italy were the main destinations.

WWF says the findings highlights the ineffectiveness of the existing voluntary scheme, the EU Forest and Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licensing Scheme, set up to tackle illegal logging.

WWF called for the introduction of an EU law to guarantee that only legal wood is sold in the European market. Traders would have to prove the origin and legality of wood and face a penalty for any violation.
The European Commission is expected to make a proposal on this issue within the next few months.