Sunday, 5 September 2010

Illegal timber to be sawed off EU markets

"The world's largest market is about to shut its gates to companies profiting from illegal trafficking and forest destruction. With this law, the black economy for wood products in Europe will be closed for business, levelling the playing field so companies are better able to act sustainably," Sébastien Risso, Greenpeace EU's forest policy director.

On the 7th of July, the European Parliament voted to ban the sale of illegally harvested timber. This new legislation bans illegally-harvested timber or timber products from being placed on the EU market. Currently, at least 20% of timber and timber products reaching the EU market is estimated to come from illegal sources.

The agreement exempts printed materials such as books and newspapers for at least five years.
Member States will be responsible for applying sanctions to operators who break the rules. Fines can be imposed depending on the environmental damage caused, the value of timber and lost tax revenue. To ensure traceability, each operator along the supply chain will need to declare from whom they bought the timber and to whom they sold it.
This is an important step by the EU to tackle illegal deforestation which has devastating effects. On a global level, deforestation contributes 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Where it occurs, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and landslides frequently happen. It also hit forest-dependent people and the economies of developing countries.

Environmentalists regretted the weakness of the sanctions as national capitals rejected a minimum framework of penalties which would be applied across Europe. Instead, it will be left to member states’ discretion how strict the penalties should be.

The toughest opposition to the agreement came from Sweden and Portugal which have strong forest industries and which therefore would hit them hardest.

All Maltese MEPs voted in favor of this agreement.

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