Environmental certification in the tropics faces challenges, but is a key instrument in combating deforestation and safeguarding the forest’s wealth of biodiversity and its role in mitigating human-made global warming. In fact, as our understanding of the impacts and urgency of the climate crisis grows, the significance of certification is set to increase.
That is the view of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT) and why it is committed to continue supporting forest operations through the certification process and to growing the market for the resulting certified tropical timber and wood products. “Conservation is an essential ally in the fight against deforestation,” said ATIBT Managing Director Benoît Jobbé-Duval. “But it’s through a genuine legal, sustainable and certified forestry economy that we will incentivise forest maintenance and achieve our goals in climate mitigation and habitat and biodiversity preservation.”
In ATIBT’s key focus area of the Congo Basin, 18% of the near 52 million ha of production forests is under certified sustainable forest management (SFM) or legality certification. Due to a range of factors, the advance of certification has slowed and to help overcome the obstacles, ATIBT is supporting a key programme of the Programme for the Promotion of Certified Forest Operations (PPECF). This involves establishment of specialists within forest sector professional unions to coach businesses step-wise towards certification. Another ATIBT objective is to develop and promote synergies between the certification process and the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade initiative (FLEGT). “Through joint action with local stakeholders, we see potential for building links between certification and FLEGT to increase the momentum of both,” said Mr Jobbé-Duval. “Working with professional associations and business partners, the aim is to improve companies’ legality and traceability performance and competence and to support those which wish to commit to certification through the coaching services mentioned earlier.”
ATIBT also sees its consumer-facing role via its Fair&Precious (F&P) tropical timber marketing initiative as vital. Not only it maintains, is it essential to underpin uptake of certified sustainable forest management with healthy demand for its output, the lack of such a market could increase the temptation to convert forest land to other commercial uses. ATIBT describes F&P as a ‘collective brand’ to promote tropical timber and wood products from sustainably, ethically and legally managed sources. To use it, companies must commit to strictest environmental standards and to developing a ‘humane economy that protects people and nature’. “By encouraging purchase of certified tropical wood among target consumer audiences, it acts to enhance the value of the Congo Basin forest resource and to promote good practices within the tropical wood sector,” said Mr Jobbé-Duval.
Looking forward, ATIBT highlights the importance of reaching out to a still wider audience to further the cause of tropical forest and timber certification. “It is particularly important to take into account Chinese businesses, which consume over 50% of wood produced in the Congo Basin,” said Mr Jobbé-Duval. “They are key players in the move towards ever more sustainable procurement and we expect them to become increasingly involved in coming years.”