Cutting Illegal Logging Down to Size
Illegal logging is an environmental and developmental issue of the utmost importance. The illegal and unsustainable cutting of timber has a devastating impact on some of the world’s most valuable remaining forests and the people and wildlife that that live in them.
Problems caused by Illegal Logging
Its environmental effects include deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and the emission of green house gases. These effects have an indirect impact on people all over the world through the degradation of our shared natural environment. Its direct impacts on people include conflicts with indigenous and local populations, violence and human rights abuses and the fuelling of corruption and exacerbation of poverty. In some cases it has even funded armed conflict. Furthermore, it undermines the legitimacy of the forest sector and efforts of governments to implement sustainable forest management.
Moreover, illegal logging activity has a strong connection with poverty. The World Bank has estimated that 90% of the 1.2 billion people in the world living in extreme poverty are affected by deforestation. Around 13 million hectares of forest were converted to other uses – largely agriculture – or lost through natural causes each year in the last decade. Forest destruction damages food and water supplies, increases vulnerability to natural disasters, and contributes to the denial of indigenous communities’ rights. For indigenous people, the forest traditionally provides them with food, medicine, and wood for housing and energy consumption. Its destruction denies them of many basic human rights and precipitates the erosion of their traditional way of life.
Further to this, illegal logging has an indirect impact on international development by denying governments in developing countries the revenue that would have been gained from tax on legally logged timber. The availability of illegal wood at lower prices also has the affect of depressing global prices for timber and further reduces revenue for developing countries. The World Bank states that the annual global market loses US$10 billion annually from illegal logging, with governments losing an additional US$5 billion in revenues.
What is Progressio Ireland doing about it?
Illegal logging is a key issue of justice for Progressio. We work with many communities in Honduras, Nicaragua, East Timor and Malawi who are threatened by illegal logging. For the past five years, Progressio in both the UK and Ireland have been working hard to get the issue of illegal logging firmly on the political agenda at both national and EU level. At the national level, we lobbied government to implement a ‘green’ public procurement policy that would ensure that government bodies must purchase and use only FSC or PEFC certified timber products. But we did not stop there. Progressio, along with our partners in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other agencies, took the fight against illegal logging to Brussels and pushed for the introduction of a bill that would make importing illegally logged timber into the European market a crime.
In November 2010, the European Parliament passed a regulation prohibiting the placing or sale of illegally logged timber in the EU, and placed a responsibility upon operators within the timber sector to undergo a process of ‘due diligence’ whereby they could certify that the timber they imported/stocked was legally felled. Since the European Union has been one of the biggest markets for illegal timber, this was a major victory, and we at Progressio are keen that the new law be implemented and upheld to the full force of the regulation. The new ‘EU Timber Law’ will come into affect on 3rd March 2013, providing timber operators adequate time to develop their ‘due diligence’ systems and select an official monitoring organisation to oversee the implementation of this powerful new law.