8 Jul 2010

EU VOTES BY HUGE MAJORITY FOR BAN ON ILLEGAL TIMBER

The European Parliament has voted overwhelming to pass legislation banning the import and sale of timber obtained through illegal logging.

The parliament voted 644-25 in favour of the legislation, paving the way for the new rules to come into effect from 2012.

The regulations still need to be rubber stamped by the European Council of member states, although the final approval is expected to be a formality after the council signaled last month that it would support the legislation.

The new rules will close a loophole that has made it possible for European firms to import and sell timber that has been logged illegally.

A 2007 report by TRAFFIC estimated that up to 97% of timber exported from Tanzania, the source of much of the world’s African blackwood, originated from illegal logging.

Under the new regulations, all companies importing and selling timber in the EU will be required to demonstrate that they have exercised adequate due diligence to ensure their timber has been felled legally.

European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik welcomed the passage of the legislation, arguing that the regulations marked a significant step towards tackling illegal logging.

“Combating illegal logging will bring environmental and development benefits, ” he said. “With this, we are sending a signal to the world that the EU will no longer serve as a market for illegally harvested timber.”

He added that the new rules would also strengthen the EU’s hand as it seeks to work with developing countries to implement forest governance and protection schemes. Industrialised countries have faced criticism from some developing nations who accuse them of intervening to try and stop rainforest clearance, while failing to tackle the global demand for tropical hardwoods that drives illegal logging.