Today the European Parliament plenary adopted the report (1) by UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas on the illegal trade of timber and wood products. She commented:
"I am delighted that MEPs have backed my proposals to transform the Commission's vitally important - but distressingly weak - proposal on illegally-sourced timber into meaningful and effective legislation.
"For years the EU has preached against illegal timber but continued to provide one of the biggest markets for it. Between 20% and 40% of global industrial wood production is estimated to come from illegal sources, and up to 20% finds its way into the EU - with biodiversity and forest-dependent peoples paying the price. The longer term effects are potentially even more serious, since deforestation accounts for nearly a fifth of the global total emissions causing climate change.
"The Amazon-sized hole in the Commission's proposal is that it does not actually prohibit the import and sale of illegally logged timber. It also focuses all its attention on one particular point in the supply chain. Although my report maintains the Commission's suggestion that only operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market for the first time should be required to introduce a full due diligence system, it makes clear that all operators in the market share responsibility for trading only legally sourced wood.
"The report also fleshes out what this system would consist of and how risk assessment would work; improves traceability, monitoring and enforcement measures, and removes a totally inappropriate exemption for biomass. Finally a comprehensive and harmonised system of penalties, including criminal penalties for gross infringements of the law, will give real teeth to the legislation.
"The spotlight now swings sharply onto Agriculture Ministers to secure political agreement on the legislation by June. After years of delay by the Commission in bringing forward its proposals, MEPs have pulled out all the stops to complete their work in the shortest time possible - for which I am very grateful to colleagues. Unfortunately this sense of urgency has thus far not been shared by the Council, who have been foot-dragging to a shameful degree. It is imperative that the Czech Presidency now step up the pressure, so that the Swedes can guide the process to conclusion this autumn.
"The central place of forestry issues in international negotiations for a new global climate agreement makes credible EU action on illegal logging all the more important. MEPs have today demonstrated that they respect their responsibilities here; it is now over to Ministers to do the same."
"A notable exception to the support from MEPs was the EPP group, who abstained in today's vote. This just highlights the hypocrisy of their constant rhetoric about the importance of forest protection: when it comes to a prime opportunity to vote in favour of concrete action to stem one of the major drivers of deforestation, they fail to do so."