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30 Apr 07
EU governments failing the forests
Brussels, Belgium – European governments are dragging their heels on a key EU initiative designed to tackle illegal logging, according to a new assessment released by WWF today.
The Illegal Logging Government Barometer shows that the UK and Austria are doing the most and Ireland and the Czech Republic the least to prevent unsustainable timber coming into the EU.
The Barometer assesses the efforts of European governments to implement the EU’s Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance & Trade (FLEGT), which encourages voluntary partnerships between EU countries and timber producing countries to reduce illegal logging. Each EU government has also committed to devise a national action plan to eliminate the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and wood products.
Four years after the Action Plan was approved, the assessment shows that 19 of 27 European governments included in the survey – or 70 per cent – are failing to take any real action to implement it successfully.
Eight countries are taking limited action and only one country, Austria, has implemented a time-bound plan with the explicit aim of eliminating illegal logging and corruption from domestic wood production as well as timber and wood product imports.
Beatrix Richards, Head of Forests at WWF-UK, said: “Four years ago the EU introduced a flagship Action Plan designed to tackle the growing problem of illegal logging. Today, very little progress has been made and this is down to individual governments who have dragged their heels on this issue.
“Illegal logging is a huge environmental, social and economic problem which often deprives local communities who rely on forests for their livelihoods. The EU, as a massive consumer of timber, has a key role to play in tackling the illegal element of the trade.”
The UK is currently the only government which says it can demonstrate - through a partnership with Indonesia - to have reduced levels of illegal logging in a wood-producing country. However, this partnership agreement pre-dates the EU illegal logging initiative.
The failure of Ireland and the Czech Republic to do anything proactively on illegal logging, and a lack of awareness about the EU Action Plan, has landed them at the bottom of the table.
Austria, which is ranked second, has improved its efforts on illegal timber more than any other government over the last year.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which all have high forest cover, appear to have given low priority to global deforestation issues and have subsequently achieved some of the lowest scores.
This is at odds with other EU Member States with high forest cover such as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, who have all achieved much higher scores.
To close critical loopholes in the current legislation, WWF is calling for new legislation to be developed to outlaw the import of illegal timber and wood products into the EU.
• Luxembourg was the only EU member state not included in the survey.
• Switzerland is not an EU member state but cooperates on EU FLEGT issues and has taken part in the survey.
• While the UK is making the most efforts to implement the FLEGT Action Plan, it cannot prove that its timber buying policy is having a positive effect. A WWF report in November 2005 showed that the UK was the biggest importer of illegal timber in Europe and when both illegal timber and pulp and paper are combined, it is the third worst in Europe, behind Finland and Sweden respectively.
• WWF believes that there are a number of loopholes within the voluntary partnership agreement process, which is part of the EU FLEGT Action Plan. Currently it does not: prevent timber being imported into the EU through third countries such as China; stipulate that any partner country entering into a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU must have a domestic legislation in place to prohibit the importation of illegally logged timber and wood products; and guarantee that pulp, paper and furniture are excluded from the scheme.
• WWF is calling on 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.
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