EU governments failing the forests
Brussels, Belgium – European governments are dragging their heels on a key EU initiative designed to tackle illegal logging, according to a new assessment released by WWF today.
The Illegal Logging Government Barometer shows that the UK and Austria are doing the most and Ireland and the Czech Republic the least to prevent unsustainable timber coming into the EU.
The Barometer assesses the efforts of European governments to implement the EU’s Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance & Trade (FLEGT), which encourages voluntary partnerships between EU countries and timber producing countries to reduce illegal logging. Each EU government has also committed to devise a national action plan to eliminate the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and wood products.
Four years after the Action Plan was approved, the assessment shows that 19 of 27 European governments included in the survey – or 70 per cent – are failing to take any real action to implement it successfully. Eight countries are taking limited action and only one country, Austria, has implemented a time-bound plan with the explicit aim of eliminating illegal logging and corruption from domestic wood production as well as timber and wood product imports.
Beatrix Richards, Head of Forests at WWF-UK, said: “Four years ago the EU introduced a flagship Action Plan designed to tackle the growing problem of illegal logging. Today, very little progress has been made and this is down to individual governments who have dragged their heels on this issue.
“Illegal logging is a huge environmental, social and economic problem which often deprives local communities who rely on forests for their livelihoods. The EU, as a massive consumer of timber, has a key role to play in tackling the illegal element of the trade.”
The UK is currently the only government which says it can demonstrate - through a partnership with Indonesia - to have reduced levels of illegal logging in a wood-producing country. However, this partnership agreement pre-dates the EU illegal logging initiative. The failure of Ireland and the Czech Republic to do anything proactively on illegal logging, and a lack of awareness about the EU Action Plan, has landed them at the bottom of the table.
Austria, which is ranked second, has improved its efforts on illegal timber more than any other government over the last year. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which all have high forest cover, appear to have given low priority to global deforestation issues and have subsequently achieved some of the lowest scores. This is at odds with other EU Member States with high forest cover such as Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, who have all achieved much higher scores.
To close critical loopholes in the current legislation, WWF is calling for new legislation to be developed to outlaw the import of illegal timber and wood products into the EU.
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