Suspect timber in EU building projects

19 March 2008

Friends of the Earth calls for legislation against illegal timber trade

Amsterdam/Brussels, 19 March 2008 - Friends of the Earth is calling on the European Commission to adopt environmental legislation to prevent illegal timber from being sold on the European market, following an investigation which discovered illegal or destructively logged timber in four EU construction projects. The timber originated from the Amazon, Central Africa, Russia and Indonesia, where large-scale illegal and destructive logging takes place and timber is purchased from suppliers that engage in illegal logging.

Friends of the Earth today presented its new report 'Building on forest destruction: Timber use in EU financed building projects' to the European Commissioner for Environment, Stavros Dimas. A conductor led a fanfare played on chainsaws, axes and saw blades to accompany the presentation.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) investigated timber use in construction projects financed by the EU and in buildings which house the European Commission. Spruce, meranti, ipé and azobé wood species were found, lacking certification of legal or sustainable forest management. The meranti wood originated from areas where up to 80 per cent of logging is illegal. The azobé wood was supplied by Cameroonian and Italian logging companies who have logged illegally in Cameroon. Further information about the buildings involved and details of the timber used can be found in the report. [1]

Since 2003 the European Commission has been working on the FLEGT action plan to combat illegal logging and trade, but no legislation has yet been adopted.

"The European Commission is not even able to keep illegal and destructively logged timber out of its own construction projects. Ancient forests are being chopped down at a furious pace for our buildings when they should be housing a huge variety of animals and plants, such as the great apes in Central Africa," states Anne van Schaik, campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Netherlands.

Illegal logging and related trade is a major cause of the worldwide disappearance of 13 million hectares of forests per year, approximately equal to the surface area of Greece. Deforestation leads to a loss of biodiversity and increases the poverty of at least a billion people who are dependent on the forests for their livelihood. Half the timber imported by the European Union from the high-risk areas - Central Africa, the Amazon, Russia and Indonesia - has been logged illegally. Production countries miss out on USD15 billion in annual income due to illegal logging, eight times as much as development aid to the forestry sector in developing countries.

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NOTES:

[1] The report 'Building on forest destruction: Timber use in EU financed building projects' is available in ENGLISH here.

And in DUTCH here.