Illegal logging high on Asia-Pacific agenda

It has been a good week for trees, with Australia and the UK agreeing to work together to tackle illegal logging whilst EU diplomats thrash out a deal with Malaysian authorities to ensure full accountability of the forest nation's timber exports.

Illegal logging undermines economies and fuels conflicts - as well as harming the environment

Illegal logging undermines economies and fuels conflicts - as well as harming the environment

Barry Gardiner, Defra's Minister for biodiversity, met Senator Eric Abetz, Australian Minister for forestry and conservation, to discuss how to combat illegal logging and protect forests worldwide.

Australia is a major timber producer and unsustainable forestry in other countries damages its industry while the UK is a major importer and can use it procurement policies to influence global markets.

The two states agreed to work on a common public procurement code for timber and argued that by persuading other countries to adopt a consistent policy life can be made more difficult for unscrupulous loggers to shift their illegal commodity.

"I am tremendously encouraged by Senator Abetz's agreement that Australia and the UK should work together to promote policies that combat illegal timber," said Mr Gardiner.

"Australia is a key player in the Asian and Pacific region and can influence many countries.

"Illegal logging degrades forests and damages the environment, leading to the loss of biodiversity. It hurts many of the world's poorest people who depend on forests for their livelihoods, robbing poor countries of revenues that should be used to develop their economies.

"It also distorts international trade by undercutting unfairly the legitimate market price for timber.

"Governments have a responsibility, as major purchasers of timber, to do what we can to ensure that timber is legal and from sustainably managed forests."

Meanwhile, EU negotiators met with Malaysian officials to discuss a voluntary agreement to reinforce accountability of Malaysian timber in an effort to ensure the wood can be tracked backed to source.

Malaysia is a major trade partner of the EU, with its timber exports amounting to ¬800 million annually.

Both the British visit to Australia and Brussels' discussions with Malaysia focused on EU's action plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), an initiative which basically says if you want to trade with Europe, you're going to have to meet European standards.

The FLEGT aims to set up bilateral voluntary agreements between EU member states and producer countries with a licensing system designed to identify legal products exported from partner countries and license them for import to the EU.

Unlicensed products to be denied entry and partner countries will receive help to set up the licensing scheme, improve enforcement and, where necessary, reform their laws.

Illegal logging costs developing countries worldwide around US$15billion a year in lost revenue, according to the World Bank.

It also causes deforestation, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss and
damages livelihoods as well as being associated with corruption and organised crime and fuelling armed conflicts.

Sam Bond



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