European Commission fails to combat forest crisis

17 October 2008

Trade in illegal timber not made a criminal offence

Brussels, 17 October 2008 - European Commission plans announced today to protect the world's forests have been slammed by Friends of the Earth Europe as "toothless" and unlikely to have any major impact on reducing deforestation. The "forest package" adopted today by the European Commission fails to include both measures to reduce deforestation and legislation to prevent the trade of illegal timber.

Danielle van Oijen, timber trade spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The legislative proposal to tackle the illegal timber trade is largely toothless and will do little to stem the rampant destruction of the world's remaining natural forests. It is now down to the European Parliament and Council to give the proposal teeth."

Owen Espley, forests campaigner for Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland said "The Commission is right not to introduce forest credits into the Emissions Trading Scheme. Forest carbon credits would create a land grab for forests and would give industry an excuse for failing to reduce their climate-changing emissions. We cannot afford to choose between protecting forests and reducing emissions, we urgently need to do both."

Friends of the Earth Europe welcomed the proposal to not include forest offset credits in the Emissions Trading Scheme at least until 2013 but are critical that the "forest package" fails to:

- make trade in illegally harvested wood a criminal offence.
- address some of the big causes of deforestation. For example, the European Commission acknowledges that Europe's mass consumption of paper, soy and palm oil products increases deforestation yet omits any measures to deal with this.
- support sustainable forest management and thus help combat climate change.
- give adequate financial input. The European Commission itself calculated that 20 billion dollars is needed to halve deforestation, but only invests a fraction of this to do so.

Deforestation and illegal logging threatens the livelihoods of local and indigenous populations who depend on the forests. They are often faced with violence and human rights abuses. Illegal logging is also linked to organised crime, money laundering and civil wars.

Each year 13 million hectares of forest are lost worldwide. One fifth of EU imports are illegal or suspect timber and a fifth of worldwide CO2 emissions are caused by deforestation.

The European Commission launched the FLEGT Action Plan [1] back in 2003, but this was not followed by meaningful results on curbing deforestation and illegal logging. Despite broad support for strong legislation from the European Parliament, member states, and key industry players, the legislative proposal was repeatedly delayed. In the current proposal, companies will not have to prove the legality of their products, but are only required to 'minimise the risk' of illegal timber being in their supply chain. The definition of legal timber is very limited and might result in legalising forest destruction and disrespecting human and indigenous peoples' rights.

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NOTES:

[1] FLEGT: Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade - see: http://capacity4dev.ec.europa.eu/public-flegt/document/flegt-regulation-2005