EU and Congo deal ‘to curb illegal timber trade’


The European Union and the Republic of Congo have announced a new agreement to ensure wood products exported from the Republic of Congo to the EU contain no illegally harvested timber and are derived from managed forests, says the European Forest Institute.

Congo exports about $330 million in timber products each year, about half of which are purchased by EU countries.

Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are the principle EU importers, but it has been difficult to confirm whether the produce has been derived from timber harvested legally, and the benefits from timber sales are shared with forest communities.

“With a total of 4,674,320 acres of certified forests as of March 2009, Congo has reached the highest echelon of tropical wood producing countries and is becoming a laboratory for sustainable forest management,” said Henri Djombo, Congo’s Minister of Forest Economy.

“The conclusion of this agreement will guarantee our country new opportunities in timber markets while participating in reinforcing governance in that sector and illustrating Congo’s political commitment to work in that direction.”

The legally binding agreement is known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which stems from European Commission’s 2003 Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) that is designed to halt the flow of illegal timber into EU markets.

It is the culmination of several years of work between the EU, the government of Republic of Congo, and NGOs that, rather than impose EU standards, allows the national government and various stakeholder groups to establish their own system for defining and enforcing legal requirements for timber sales.

Source: Eurek Alert

Date: 09/05/2009

EU crack-down on imports of illegal timber


The European Union has taken steps to crack down on illegal timber imports, according to the European Commission.

On its website, the Commission said that illegal logging destroyed millions of acres of forest each year.

It warned that much of the timber ended up in Europe, one of the world’s largest markets for wood products like lumber, plywood and furniture.

About 20% of these imports came from trees that were illegally felled, it added.

Until now, the EU has promoted voluntary action to curb illegal logging. But under a new legislative proposal unveiled on 17 October, importers would have to take certain steps to verify the wood is legal.

The regulation would also apply to timber producers in the EU, where illegal logging has been reported in some countries.

Research shows that illegal logging is wreaking environmental havoc, accelerating deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Deforestation also accounts for almost a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Commission warned that the problem was getting worse, adding that more than half of logging now occurred in vulnerable regions, such as the Amazon basin, central Africa, and south-east Asia.

In some countries, illegal logging is so rampant it far outstrips legal timber production.

Deforestation is expected to be a priority in the upcoming international talks on climate change. The Commission is proposing a global scheme to reward developing countries for cuts in greenhouse gases achieved by reducing deforestation.

The Commission’s website stated: “Illegal logging is not just a problem for the environment.

“It robs indigenous and local people of jobs and resources, and it fosters corruption and organised crime, with profits often used to fund regional wars.

“It also costs governments billions of euros in lost revenues and undermines the competitiveness of legal logging operations in both importing and exporting countries.”

Source: European Commission website

Date: 20/10/2008

Summit opens Europe’s first Forest Week


The role forests can play in the battle against dangerous climate is one of the topics to be discussed by delegates at a summit to mark the first European Forest Week.

The gathering in Rome, hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will run from 20-24 October.

In a press release, the FAO said Europe’s forests were growing at the rate of about 13 million cubic feet annually, yet only two-thirds of this growth was being exploited.

“Forests cover 44% of Europe’s land area and continue to expand,” said Jan Heino, FAO’s assistant director-general for forestry.

“Collaboration across the forest and forest-related sectors is crucial if we are to take full advantage of the multiple resources forests offer.”

Delegates from 46 countries are attending the Rome meeting, which has been jointly organised by the European Commission, FAO, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Partnering the talks in Italy, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is hosting a conference in Brussels, looking at the “role of forests and the forest-based sector in meeting the EU’s climate commitments”.

More than 130 events will be staged throughout Europe over the course of the five days to highlight the value of Europe’s forests and what needs to be done to fully utilise their potential.

Organisers hope the inaugural European Forest Week hope the focus on sustainable forestry management will contribute towards finding solutions for some of the most challenging issues facing forests and forestry today: climate change, energy and water.

In the last 15 years, forest area in Europe has grown by 32 million acres or an area equivalent to the size of Greece.

Source: FAO press release

Date: 17/10/2008

Forests ‘forgotten’ in EU climate policy, MEPs warn


A Swedish MEP has said that the EU climate policy package’s failure to address the role of forests in curbing global warming was a “major mistake”, reports the EurActiv website.

Liberal MEP Lena Ek made her comments during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee.

Her views were seconded by Irish Christian Democrat MEP Avril Doyle, responsible for shepherding a proposal to revise the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) through Parliament.

The Irish MEP said that Europe would have “no credibility” in international climate negotiations without some sort of forest-related policy framework.

Ms Doyle added that he wanted the issue “stitched through” both the EU ETS and a separate proposal on “effort sharing”, which spells out member states’ commitments to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in sectors not covered by the ETS.

Deforestation is widely considered to be a key driver of global warming since tropical and other forests absorb CO2, thus mitigating the effects of emissions on the climate. But EU policymakers are struggling to define rules to keep trees standing.

Mechanisms to prevent deforestation – by giving landowners EU ETS credits for leaving forests standing, for example – were not included in the Commission’s climate proposals, put forward on 23 January.

This was due to apparent difficulties related to measuring emissions from these sectors with accuracy.

But the issue was also not “on the radar screen” of officials working on the EU ETS proposal in the EU executive’s environment service (DG Environment).

A push to use biomass for biofuels in transport or in home heating means that forests, and the land on which they stand, have a higher and more immediate economic value if exploited for energy-related purposes than if left standing.

The Commission attempted to address the issue in its 2006 Forest Action Plan, but environmentalists, and industries that use forests for non-energy purposes, are increasingly worried that Europe’s energy thirst will put too much pressure on forests and that the non-binding action plan is too weak to prevent an overshoot.

Source: Euractiv website

Date: 11/09/2008

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