Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

UK Environment Minister Benn calls for tougher laws to tackle illegal logging

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn will today (25 March) call for tougher European laws to tackle illegal logging.

Mr Benn wants to make it an offence to import illegally produced timber into the European Union.

Mr Benn said that the UK, as the world's fourth largest importer of timber, should lead by example when it comes to the timber Government buys. So from next week (1 April), under the government's timber procurement policy introduced in 2000, government departments, agencies and other bodies will only be able to buy wood and timber products originating from independently verified legal and sustainable sources or from a licensed country.

Deforestation accounts for around 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and illegal logging costs timber producing economies worldwide $10 billion a year. Hilary Benn said:

'Illegal logging causes untold environmental damage, it harms communities and it threatens wildlife. If we import timber without ensuring that it is legally sourced, then we are contributing to these problems.

'We in the UK have a responsibility to act. Government departments are estimated to account for one fifth of all timber bought in the UK - and this rises to two fifths if you include local authorities and other government bodies.

'So from 1 April we're changing the way we buy timber. It is a message to the rest of Europe that we are ready to lead on this issue - and we want to do more.

'We want to strengthen the welcome steps that the EU is taking to exclude illegal timber from our markets. Making it an offence to import it would send a clear message to the market that such activity was no longer acceptable.

'We need to bring an end to this pernicious trade. Illegal timber should be just that - illegal.'

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