Brussels -- On 3 March, new legislation comes into effect to counter the trade in illegal timber. The new EU Timber regulation will affect everyone in the wood trade. It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market in an effort to tackle the problem of illegal logging across the world. Illegal logging has severe economic, environmental and social impacts: it is associated with deforestation and climate change, it can undermine the efforts and livelihoods of legitimate operators, and it can also contribute to conflicts over land and resources.
The new law affects both imported and domestically produced timber and timber products, and it covers an extensive range of products, from paper and pulp to solid wood and flooring. The aim is to put in place procedures to minimise the risk of illegal wood being traded. Anyone who first places a timber product on the EU market must apply 'due diligence' to ensure that the wood they are trading is legal. Traders who buy or sell timber already on the market are required to keep adequate records so that the wood they deal in can be easily traced.
Operators now have to undertake a risk management exercise to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber on the EU market. There are three key elements:
- Information: operators must have access to information describing the timber and timber products, country of harvest, quantity, details of the supplier and information on compliance with national legislation.
- Risk assessment: operators should assess the risk of illegal timber in their supply chain, based on the information identified above and taking into account criteria set out in the regulation.
- Risk mitigation: when the assessment shows that there is a risk of illegal timber in the supply chain, that risk can be mitigated by requiring additional information and verification from the supplier.
Illegal logging is the harvesting of wood in a way that breaches the laws or regulations of the country of harvest. It poses a significant threat to forests as it contributes to deforestation and forest degradation, which is responsible for about 20 % of global CO2 emissions. It threatens biodiversity, and undermines sustainable forest management and development, including the commercial viability of operators who act in line with applicable legislation. It contributes to desertification and soil erosion and can exacerbate extreme weather events and flooding. And it has social, political and economic implications, often undermining progress towards good governance and threatening the livelihood of local forest-dependent communities, and can be linked to armed conflicts. The new Regulation will also contribute to the Union’s climate change mitigation efforts in a cost-effective manner.
Legislation with similar objectives has been adopted by the US and Australia, thus the EU will be adding its weight to a global effort to eliminate illegal logging and associated trade.
The EU takes a two-pronged approach to tackling illegal logging addressing both demand – in particular through the EU Timber Regulation – and supply, for example through bilateral agreements with six major timber-producing countries – Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Ghana, Liberia and Indonesia.
Timber or timber products that carry a valid FLEGT licence or CITES permit are considered to be compliant with the requirements of the regulation.