Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Illegal logging targeted by parliament

The European Parliament has approved stricter rules on timber sold in the European Union in order to take on illegal logging - one of the major causes of deforestation.

According to the rules, all operators in the timber supply chain - from lumberjack to lumber yard - must prove the legality of their timber.

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  • Deforestation causes almost a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions (Photo: Wikipedia)

Those that are found to be supplying illegal timber illegal timber will be slapped with fines - imposed at the EU member state level - that reflect the degree of environmental and economic damage.

The penalties must represent at least five times the value of the timber products obtained by committing a serious infringement and will go up in the event of repeat infringements.

The bill, approved by a large margin during a full sitting of the house, with 465 deputies in favour, 22 against and 187 abstaining.

The obligation imposed on all actors along the supply chain goes further than the rules contained in the original proposal for the bill from the European Commission, which first floated last October.

Countries must ensure that two years after the entry into force of the regulation, all timber on the market are labelled with information tracking their source, country and forest of origin.

The EU executive had suggested instead that the onus on proving timber not be from illegal sources only apply to those placing timber on the market for the first time.

MEPs also insisted that the rules cover all products "without exception", rejecting a proposed exemption for products covered by existing sustainability criteria, such as timber used for biomass.

Additionally, the deputies extended the bill by inserting language establishing an EU-level mechanism that guarantees independent monitoring of the systems used by timber companies and delivers powers of enforcement and control to EU member states.

Caroline Lucas, the British Green MEP responsible for shepherding the legislation through the parliament, said during the parliament's debate on the bill: "Illegal logging is a hugely serious problem, against which the EU has preached for many years, yet all the while continuing to provide one of the world's biggest markets for illegally-logged timber and timber products."

Between 20 and 40 percent of global industrial wood production is estimated to come from illegal sources and up to 20 percent of that finds its way into the EU. This depresses timber prices, strips countries of their natural resources and tax revenue, and increases the poverty of forest-dependent peoples.

In addition, up to one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions come from forest destruction more than the world's entire transport sector.

Tropical forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year - a region about the size of Greece - and the EU has set itself the goal of reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

Green groups welcomed the move, saying that the parliament had substantially improved on the original proposal for legislation from the commission

"Today's vote has taken us a step closer to excluding illegal timber from the EU market, making companies accountable for the products they sell, and helping reduce the EU's environmental and social footprint on the world's forests," said Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace EU's forest policy director.

The ball is now in the agriculture ministers' court, who must now consider the parliament's changes to the original proposal.

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