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  WWF website 22 Nov 05
Illegal timber trade in Europe driving global forest loss and poverty

The Independent UK 22 Nov 05
Britain leads EU imports of wood logged illegally
By Martin Hickman

PlanetArk 22 Nov 05
EU Destroying Forests of Poor Countries, WWF says

GENEVA - EU countries are helping destroy major forests in poorer countries through massive imports of illegal timber, the conservation group WWF said on Tuesday.

It said Britain was "the biggest importer of illegal timber in Europe" and was responsible for the loss of 600,000 hectares of forest -- more than twice the size of Luxembourg -- each year in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The Swiss-based body said the illegal logging that feeds the trade was depriving local communities of their livelihoods and could lead to the loss of major forests in Africa and Indonesia over the next 10 years.

WWF forest experts produced their report after studying the trade between EU nations and countries in the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Indonesia and Russia. They also surveyed Baltic states which are now EU members.

"The EU is probably importing a substantial and increasing quantity of illegal timber from all regions ... indirectly via China," the WWF said in the report timed for a meeting of EU ministers on the issue on Tuesday in Brussels.

Illegal logging involves cutting down trees, often by rogue companies, in violation of national conservation measures and outside the control of governments. The wood is then smuggled out to another country before going on the world market. Britain was followed by Finland, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands on the EU list of importers.

The WWF report said it was vital for the EU to introduce a mandatory ban on the import of illegal timber instead of current policy favouring voluntary agreements between its 25 members and producer countries.

"The EU must take much tougher action if it wants to make a difference in both conserving the world's most important forests and in helping alleviate poverty," said Duncan Pollard, head of WWF's European Forest Programme.

Andrew Lee, campaign director for WWF's national organisation in Britain, noted that Britain had made the fight against poverty the central part of its presidency of the EU.

He said Britain's huge consumption of timber was robbing Indonesia and countries in Africa of income while international companies behind the trade reaped the profits.

WWF website 22 Nov 05
Illegal timber trade in Europe driving global forest loss and poverty

Gland, Switzerland – Unless urgent action is taken by the European Union, the illegal timber trade in Europe could contribute to large-scale depletion of timber in some areas and loss of important forests, especially in the Congo Basin and Indonesia, in about 10 years time, a new WWF report shows.

The report, which focuses on the trade between EU countries and the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Indonesia, the Baltic States and Russia, found that the EU imports roughly 20 million cubic metres of illegal timber from these regions annually.

As a result, the EU is responsible for around €3 billion of the global €10–15 billion in lost revenue due to illegal logging each year.

WWF believes current EU efforts, including the Forests Law Enforcement Governance & Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, which promotes voluntary agreements between member states importing timber and external countries producing it, fall far short of the measures needed to tackle illegal logging.

While the aim of the regulation is to prevent illegal timber being imported into the EU, it is neither mandatory, nor does it prevent illegal timber being imported via third countries, the global conservation organization says.

As Ministers meet to discuss measures to consider illegal logging at a meeting in Brussels today, WWF is calling for new EU-wide legislation to prohibit the import of illegally logged timber.

WWF also urges the EU to take far more active steps to encourage other major producers such as China, Japan and the US to eliminate illegal timber from their own imports.

“The EU must take much tougher action if it wants to make a difference in both conserving the world’s most important forests and help alleviate poverty,” said Duncan Pollard, Head of WWF’s European Forest Programme.

“Only measures that make it mandatory for EU members to prohibit illegal timber coming into Europe will really help combat illegal logging.”

According to the report, the United Kingdom is the biggest importer of illegal timber in Europe (and the third biggest importer of illegal timber and pulp and paper combined, followed by Sweden and Finland respectively).

The trade is responsible for the loss of 600,000 hectares of forest each year – more than twice the size of Luxembourg.

“The has made poverty a central plank of its EU presidency yet its consumption of illegal timber is robbing countries such as Africa and of invaluable income,” said Andrew Lee, Director of Campaigns for WWF-UK.

“Illegal logging deprives local communities who often rely on forests for their livelihoods, while big international companies reap the profits.”

The Independent UK 22 Nov 05
Britain leads EU imports of wood logged illegally
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Many of Britain's furniture shops, garden centres and building sites are full of illegally logged wood, according to a study that exposes the UK's leading role in Europe in the illicit destruction of the rainforests.

According to research from the WWF, the conservation group, 28 per cent of timber arriving in the UK comes from trees that should still be standing and Britain's imports of illegal wood are higher than any other country in the EU.

Illegal logging causes manifold social and environmental problems, including climate change, lower public revenue, increased corruption, removal of indigenous people from tribal land and habitat loss for endangered animals.

In its report, Failing the Forests: Europe's Illegal Timber Trade, the WWF estimates that the EU is responsible for €3bn (£2bn) of the global €10bn-€15bn in revenue lost to countries of origin.

Of Britain's annual imports of about 7.9 million cubic metres of wood, the environmental group believes 2.2 million cubic metres is illegally logged: 600,000 hectares of forest each year - nearly three times the size of Luxembourg.

Only if you include timber and paper made from illegally logged trees (bringing the UK to 2.3 million cubic metres) are there any worse offenders in the EU - Finland and Sweden, responsible for 5.1 million and 2.6 million respectively. Britain's total is 50 per cent higher than Germany's, almost double that of France and four times that of Spain.

The WWF's estimates (no one can be sure) are based on the levels of illegal logging in exporter countries, which can be as high as 80 per cent for countries such as Indonesia, which have widespread corruption. Indonesia accounts for the highest value of wood imports into the EU - about five per cent.

The EU also imports heavily from five other states or regions where there are grave concerns about sustainability: the Amazon basin, Russia, the Baltic states, the Congo basin, and East Africa.

The wood arrives in many forms in the UK, sometimes as logs, as plywood, or as finished products such as garden furniture. However, it is not illegal in Britain to import timber illegally logged abroad.

Instead the EU - under Britain's presidency - is to ratify a voluntary agreement aimed at slowing the level of illegal logging, the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade deal, which will seek new safeguards with individual exporter countries.

The action plan does not cover third countries - such as China, which processes vast amounts of illegal wood from Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - and also excludes furniture, pulp and paper.

Environmental groups believe Britain should do more to combat illegal logging. Andrew Lee, the WWF's director of campaigns, said: "The UK has made poverty a central plank of its EU presidency yet its consumption of illegal timber is robbing countries such as Cameroon ... of invaluable income. "Large-scale illegal logging often deprives local communities who rely on forests for their livelihood, while big international companies reap the profits."

In the UK, consumers can make sure their furniture, floors, toys and other goods are legal by buying wood carrying the label of the Forest Stewardship Council.

The FSC oversees teams of auditors that check forests to ensure trees are being re-planted and the rate of felling is sustainable. Most certified forests are in Europe and North America. The Timber Trade Association, backs certification, partly because " timber will lose market share" if it cannot improve its reputation.

According to the FSC, leading DIY chains such as Homebase and B&Q have a good record on selling products with the FCS logo - a tree with a tick. But there are still many companies with chequered records.

The building suppliers Wolseley, which owns more than 200 builder's merchants across the country, withdrew illegally logged rainforest timber last month from sale after Greenpeace tracked it from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, via mills in China.

Nathan Argent, the forest campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "People tend to think all wood on sale here comes from sustainable forests in northern Europe. When you tell them, 'This piece of garden furniture comes from a tropical rainforest in South America' they are often shocked."

Nick Cliffe, the director of the Forest Stewardship Council UK, said: " Look for the FSC mark and if you don't see it walk away."

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