Bulgaria, Romania and other EU countries still failing forests

Bulgaria, Romania and other EU countries are not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal and unsustainable timber or regulating its sale, despite the upcoming introduction of two pieces of legislation to halt its import, according to a survey by WWF.

So far only four countries are ready to receive licensed timber, under the EU’s FLEGT Regulation (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade), which came into force in 2005. And as many as nine countries have still to put in place any of the necessary implementing measures for the EU Timber Regulation, which is due to be implemented on March 3rd, 2013.

The survey found the highest scorers with 12 points (out of max 18 points) respectively were Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. The UK has been the most consistent high scorer on performance, but has become one of the slowest in terms of improving its performance.

Since 2007 when the preceding survey was carried out, Romania has performed somewhat less well. In 2012, inter-departmental collaboration is at an early stage, however Romania is ready to receive FLEGT-licensed timber. Penalties and sanctions are very weak. Sustainable procurement is not specifically addressed. Work is ongoing on the adoption of the EU Timber Regulation and it appears that penalties and sanctions will be more stringent than is the case with the FLEGT Regulation.

Bulgaria has performed poorly in the 2012 Barometer relative to its result in 2007. There is an informal working group dealing with the FLEGT Action Plan and Regulation, and the EU Timber Regulation. The country has adopted the FLEGT Regulation and is ready to import FLEGT-licensed timber. Weak penalties and sanctions are envisaged. It has no public procurement policy for sustainable / legal timber products. Work is at an early stage on the adoption of the EU Timber Regulation.

Beatrix Richards, head of Forest Policy and Trade at WWF UK, said: “Overall the study shows that EU Member States will have a busy year if they’re going to ensure that these two key pieces of legislation are in place to exclude illegal timber.”

Only seven countries are making good progress in ensuring that all public institutions buy only legal and sustainable timber and wood products. As many as 11 countries still have no such policy in place at all, despite having illegal timber in their supply chains, and monitoring of the quality of implementation is very weak. The idea of using public procurement policy to drive demand for sustainably produced timber arose out of the Rio Summit in 1992 and the Agenda 21 Initiative.

Comparable scores over the course of the barometer surveys (2004-2012) show that Belgium, France and Slovenia are the most improved. The weakest performers overall in 2012, scoring two points or less, out of a total possible score of 18, were Estonia, Finland, Greece Italy, Slovakia and Spain.

One of the flagship actions by the EU is working with tropical countries to enter into voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) which will permit licensed timber from these countries to enter the EU both under the FLEGT regulation and the EU Timber Regulation. Only six EU countries are currently proactively engaged in supporting this.

Unless EU governments do more, wood products sold across the EU could still be undermining social infrastructure and devastating natural habitats in areas of Indonesia and the Congo Basin. Illegal and unsustainable logging impacts on communities and species, such as the orang-utan and gorilla, whilst also making a significant contribution to climate change.

Beatrix Richards added: “Legislation to ensure legality will only do so much. People need to continue to drive demand for sustainable forest management by buying timber certified through credible certifications schemes such as the Forestry Stewardship Council® (FSC®) to ensure both legality and responsible management. This will help to ensure that what they are buying is not destroying people’s livelihoods and biodiversity.”

Source: WWF.

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