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Nature

Dramatic Decline in Illegal Logging

A new report released shows that after a decade of effort across the planet the fight against illegal logging is finally paying dividends.

The assessment, released by Chatham House, is the most thorough assessment to date and finds that a decade of international effort to tackle the problem is having a dramatic and beneficial effect on the global climate as well as those communities that are dependent upon forests for their livelihood.

“Up to a billion of the world’s poorest people are dependent on forests, and reductions in illegal logging are helping to protect their livelihoods”, said Sam Lawson, Chatham House Associate Fellow and lead author of the report.

The report states that illegal logging has dropped over the past decade by a whopping 50% in Cameroon, between 50% and 75% in the Brazilian Amazon, and by 75% in Indonesia, three of the world’s largest tropical timber producers. This big of a percentage decrease has saved up to 17 million hectares of forest, an area larger than that of England and Wales combined.

Such a decrease could, over time, and at a relatively low cost, prevent the release of up to 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That much carbon dioxide is equivalent to half the carbon dioxide currently released by human activities worldwide each year.

“The effort to combat illegal logging and improve forest governance has brought developed and developing countries together in a unique way with a shared sense of purpose”, said Lawson. “Our study shows that consumer interest and pressure combined with action by producer countries can yield very positive results.

In 2008, companies in the United States, Japan, the UK, France and Netherlands – known as the five “consumer” countries of wood products – bought 17 billion cubic meters of illegal timber and wood products worth approximately $8.4 billion (USD). In 2009, a total of 100 million cubic metres of illegal timber were harvested in the timber producing countries studied.

“If laid end to end the illegal logs would encircle the globe more than ten times over,” according to Larry MacFaul, co-author of the report.

The report covered all aspects of the timber trade, starting by looking at the forests of the five “producer” countries, Brazil, Indonesia, Cameroon, Malaysia and Ghana. The study moved on to analyse the entry of timber into the fiver consumer countries and the travel through the two processing countries, China and Vietnam, and on to buyers in the industrialized world.

Many regulations and policies are being put into effect in many countries across the planet, many as a result of the negotiation of Voluntary Partnership Agreements with the EU. However these policies will not always stop the logging and trade of illegal timber as those intent on benefiting from the sale of illegal woods will continue to find a way to harvest it.

Source: UNEP Division of Technology Industry and Economics

Image Source: Wakx via Flickr




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