EU introduces ban on the import of illegally harvested timber
On 3 March 2013, following years of debate and preparation, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) comes into force in all member states of the European Union. The law, which was adopted by the European Parliament and Council in October 2010, is only just coming into force because of the measures member states and private companies had to put in place.
According to the EUTR operators (“those who first place a timber product on the EU market”) through a due diligence system are required to “make every effort to ensure that the wood they trade in is legal”.
The due diligence system (DDS) comprises of three elements, including access to information relating to shipments’ country of origin, quantity and suppliers’ details; evaluation that the timber was produced in compliance with the laws of the country of origin; taking additional steps to ensure the legality of the timber if there is any doubt over its provenance.
In addition, the EUTR requires traders (“those who sell or buy the timber already on the EU market”) to keep “adequate information so that the wood they deal in can be easily traced”.
The new legislation covers a wide range of products, from paper and pulp to solid wood and flooring, and forms a part of ongoing efforts made by the EU to help tackle the global problem of illegal logging.
Illegal logging is defined as the harvesting of wood that breaches the laws or regulations of the country of origin.
It is estimated that illegal logging accounts for 50-90% of the volume of forestry activities in key producer tropical countries and 15-30% of all wood traded globally, costing in excess of €15bn ($20bn/£13bn) each year. It is also estimated that illegal logging still occurs in many formally protected forests, especially in tropical countries.
Since the EU accounts for 35% of the world’s primary timber consumption, potentially the new ban could have a significant impact on illegal logging, particularly from Africa and Southeast Asia, where much of the illegal timber destined for the EU is sourced.
INTERPOL’s Project LEAF
In 2012, INTERPOL and the UN launched Project LEAF, an initiative to combat illegal logging and organised forest crime. In the same year INTERPOL and UNEP produced a report on illegal logging: “Green Carbon, Black Trade: Illegal Logging, Tax Fraud and Laundering in the Worlds Tropical Forests”.
The report highlights the primary challenges and opportunities in combating corruption, fraud, smuggling and laundering of illegally logged forest products. It also outlines the impacts of illegal logging on the lives and livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world.
In February 2013 INTERPOL announced the results of Operation Lead, its first international operation in Central and South America targeting large-scale illegal logging and forest crimes: over 50.000 m3 of illegal timber was seized (value of around USD 8 million) and a total of 194 arrests were made, with 118 individuals currently under investigation, and several cases of deportation.
– Press release European Commission: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-175_en.htm?locale=en
– Text of the EU Timber regulation: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32010R0995:EN:NOT
– Guidance Document EUTR: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/pdf/Final%20Guidance%20document.pdf
– Information on INTERPOL’s Project LEAF: http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Projects/Project-Leaf
– INTERPOL’s press release on Operation Lead: http://www.interpol.int/News-and-media/News-media-releases/2013/PR017
– INTERPOL/UNEP report Green Carbon, Black Trade: http://www.unep.org/pdf/RRAlogging_english_scr.pdf