There is no need for a common EU forestry policy, stakeholders have agreed at a conference in the European Parliament. However, more co-ordination between European and national levels is needed.
A round table discussion between policymakers, industry and NGOs in Brussels on 20 September agreed that more EU coordination was needed on forestry policy. Participants agreed on the need to preserve the delicate balance between the multiple roles fulfilled by forests (pulp and paper production, furniture, protection of biodiversity, climate change mitigation).
EU forest-based industries today face a number of challenges due to globalisation:
- Increased competition from countries with lower environmental standards, cheaper labour and lower energy prices;
- increased demand for wood and forest products, including biomass and biofuels;
- illegal wood imports and environmental degradation, and;
- lack of coordination on these issues, especially regarding other policy areas affecting forestry (agriculture, energy, environment, R&D).
The debate took place only days after Greenpeace published the results of an investigation, accusing Finland of importing illegal timber from Russia. In allowing this trade, Finland is effectively acting as “a clearing house” and an “accomplice in forest crimes”, Greenpeace said.
According to Greenpeace, the investigation showed the need to adopt EU-wide legislation to ban illegal timber and to ensure that all products on the European market actually originate from responsibly managed forests. The existing EU licensing scheme for timber is purely voluntary, Greenpeace pointed out.
Packaging and paper manufacturers said they are doing all they can to make sure that only legal timber is used. The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) – which counts Tetra Pak and StoraEnso among its members – says the industry is already “spending millions” to ensure that the wood fibre it uses can be traced and verified by independent third-party investigators.
“If evidence shows that illegal timber has been detected, ACE members will take appropriate action immediately,” ACE said in a statement. However, wood certification schemes often vary with different countries adopting different definitions of sustainability. “The ultimate goal is that everything we use will be sourced from sustainably managed forests,” says Mario Abreu form Tetra Pak which claims 94% of its fibre is certified. “However, that remains a somewhat aspirational goal,” he concedes.
The World Bank estimates the annual global market value of losses from illegal logging at over US$10 billion, and annual losses in government revenues of about US$5 billion.