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The story of FLEGT: New FERN video on addressing illegal logging

“Years of effort to halt illegal logging are finally showing signs of success. But in Indonesia, the Brazilian Amazon, the Congo Basin, and parts of West Africa, up to half of all timber is still illegally sourced.”

That’s the introduction to a new video produced by the Brussels-based NGO FERN, titled, “The story of FLEGT“. FLEGT is an EU action plan aimed at addressing Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. It consists of four different measures:

  1. EU Procurement Policies – To define what timber products EU governments should and shouldn’t buy;
  2. Due Diligence – To address EU finance of illegal logging;
  3. EU Timber Regulation – To ensure that timber used in the EU is legal; and
  4. Voluntary Partnership Agreements – To address poor forest governance in timber producing countries.

Here’s FERN’s new video:

The EU Timber Regulation came into force on 3 March 2013. According to the regulation, timber traders have to carry out due diligence to ensure that the timber they are selling in Europe is legal:

On the basis of a systemic approach, operators placing timber and timber products for the first time on the internal market should take the appropriate steps in order to ascertain that illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber are not placed on the internal market. To that end, operators should exercise due diligence through a system of measures and procedures to minimise the risk of placing illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber on the internal market.

The EU regulation follows similar regulation in the US, implemented in 2008 under the Lacey Act. The EU legislation goes further, by seeking to sign legally binding agreements with timber producing countries to achieve legality and reform of forest governance.

On its website, FERN notes that,

Illegal logging destroys forests and damages communities, but it is hard to tackle because it is often an integral part of a nation’s economy, giving financial support to political parties and companies. FERN believes the challenge is to address the root causes of illegal operations: corruption, unclear tenure situation and the excessive influence of the timber industry.

FERN administers a website providing information on VPAs. And Chatham House in the UK runs an Illegal Logging Portal, providing a huge amount of information on illegal logging.

So far, REDD-Monitor has not looked in detail at illegal logging. It is, after all, a bit of a no brainer. Illegal logging is, er, illegal. Timber is really big stuff. Smuggling it is kind of tricky (unlike drugs, for example). If it’s illegal, surely it’s just a case of rounding up the bad guys and locking them away?

Obviously it’s not so easy. Just as stopping deforestation is more complicated than putting a price on the carbon stored in forests, stopping illegal logging involves facing up to powerful vested interests. Corruption makes addressing illegal logging more difficult, in countries where government officials earn far more from backhanders than they would from addressing illegal logging. Legislation on illegal logging applies not only to logs but to timber products such as paper. Implementing unjust forest laws, can have serious implications for local communities living in and near forests. The scale of the problem is vast. In 2010, Chatham House estimated that as much as 100 million cubic metres of timber are harvested illegally each year.

As the FERN video illustrates with the map below, many of the countries that are in FLEGT negotiations or have already signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) also have REDD programmes.

Addressing illegal logging must play an important part in attempts to reduce deforestation. So this post will be the first in an occasional series looking in more detail at illegal logging. The next in the series will look at a report on how VPAs are encouraging forest reform by journalist Fred Pearce, commissioned by FERN in 2012.

Full Disclosure: REDD-Monitor receives funding from FERN. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

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