Thursday, 19 February 2009

Traceable timber amendments strengthen Europe's illegal logging proposals

17 Feb 2009

Brussels, Belgium - Europe's proposed new timber regulations have been transformed from a ramshackle statement of intent to a credible framework for controlling the illegal trade in timber, following the European Parliament’s environment committee acceptance of key amendments improving traceability, monitoring and enforcement.

“The amendments introduced today give all players in the timber supply chain clearer indications about the system they need to establish to prove the legality of their timber – and provide clearer and more certain consequences to those who continue to flout the rules,” said Anke Schulmeister, Forest policy Officer at WWF.

“We congratulate the committee for having the foresight to recognise the inadequacies of the draft regulation proposed by the European commission and having the courage to do the necessary carpentry to this draft law.”

Today’s amendments give operators of the supply chain clear indications about the traceability system they need to establish. They also improved investigative capabilities in European countries, which hold responsibility for stopping illegal products at the borders and applying penalties.

WWF believes this is a milestone to stop massive forest destruction worldwide, and a much needed improvement of the new EU timber law proposed by the European Commission.

"If applied correctly, the law has the potential to dramatically reduce illegal logging in tropical countries, slow deforestation and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples," said Schulmeister.

"Lots of companies in Europe have already shown their willingness to guarantee that only legal wood products are placed on the market. Now it is crucial that today’s agreement passes the final test with the European Parliament and Council."

The debate on a timber law for Europe started more than five years ago and has now reached its crucial phase, as the EU is about to make fundamental decisions to free its market from wood products that have been harvested, processed and sold illegally.

WWF estimates that 16-19 per cent of European wood imports in 2006 came from illegal sources - between 26.5 and 31 million cubic metres of timber - with much of this timber coming through Russia and Finland.

The amended laws will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Agriculture Council, with WWF urging both parties to support today's amendments.