EU seeks tougher rules on illegal logging
BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Commission on Friday proposed tighter rules against illegal logging aimed at fighting climate change and protecting forests across the world.
"We must also send a firm message to timber suppliers that illegal timber or timber products will not be tolerated on the EU market," said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, unveiling the draft law.
Under the proposed rules, which will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 member states before coming into force, importers will have to seek "sufficient guarantees" that the timber they are bringing in is legally harvested.
The exporting countries will have to perform "due diligence" tests to minimise the risks of illegal timber reaching European markets.
While the legislation, if approved, would be EU-wide, it would be up to individual member states to set penalties for wrongdoers.
"Forests are home to half of all known species. When forests disappear, so does a vast array of plants and species, with disastrous and irreversible consequences," said Dimas, introducing initiatives on deforestation as well as illegal logging.
Illegal logging currently makes up around a fifth of all timber imports into the EU.
In general forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year, through both legal and illegal means.
Deforestation is responsible for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and has become a key issue in international negotiations.
To tackle the wider problem, the EU commissioner unveiled proposals to work towards developing in international climate change negotiations what Dimas called a "Global Forest Carbon Mechanism."
Under that scheme, developing countries would be rewarded for emissions reductions achieved by taking action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
The plans would form part of the EU's position at the UN climate conference in Poznan in December and in the negotiations on a new climate agreement that is due to be concluded in December 2009 in Copenhagen.