From April 1the Government, which buys about 40% of the UK’s timber, has committed to only buy it from sustainable sources.

Hilary Benn, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, said: “Developed nations such as the UK must support developing nations so that they do not have to make a choice between their ecosystems and their economies.

“Developing countries have long – and rightly – called for action by consumer countries to support their own efforts to manage their forests.

“The new social criteria demonstrate the UK’s commitment to use government purchasing power to help push illegal and unsustainable timber out of the market by improving labour standards, protecting the interests of developing nations and tackling climate change.”

Mr Benn added cutting down the world’s forests is responsible for about a fifth of global carbon emissions, but what many people may not realise is that this is linked to the illegal trade in timber.

This is a major problem for many timber-producing countries in the developing world. It not only causes environmental damage, but costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenue, often involving corruption and funds armed conflict.

Luke Walsh

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