On board the bus to sustainable tropical timber

The 2019 Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition Conference, titled Establishing Pathways to Verified Sustainable Tropical Timber, reinforced the reputation of the annual event for lively, insightful discussion on the tropical timber trade. It was a true forum, with delegate input as integral a part of proceedings as presentations.

It didn’t produce 100% consensus on its theme of how best to align different legality and sustainability verification schemes and initiatives to drive the environmental performance of timber and forestry sectors. Ultimately, however, there was broad agreement that the various initiatives are headed for the same destination – maintenance of tropical forests and their ecological, social and economic benefits and a sustainable international tropical timber trade. So, it was broadly concluded, increased coordination and cooperation are key.

The November Conference took place in Berlin the day before the International Hardwood Conference in the same venue, enabling delegates to attend both. It attracted an audience of approximately 120 drawn from across Europe and beyond, including timber suppliers, importers, trade federations, government agencies and NGOs. Co-hosts were STTC founder IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the German Timber Trade Federation GD Holz, and STTC member the City of Berlin.

A focal point was the release of the new report from IDH and the STTC, ‘Unlocking Sustainable Tropical Timber Market Growth Through Data’. Undertaken jointly by forest and timber sustainability advisors Probos and the Global Timber Forum, the publication is set to be annual. Its rationale, said Probos’s Mark van Benthem, is that current, accurate trade data is key to informing market development strategy.

The report found continuing wide variance in verified sustainable primary tropical timber products market share among Europe’s seven leading consumer countries; from 67.5% in the Netherlands, to 5% in Spain. The average lies between 25% and 32%, rising to 40% if FLEGT-licensed timber from Indonesia is taken into account.

Recommendations included greater multi-stakeholder collaboration to mainstream use of sustainable tropical timber and incentivize uptake of sustainable forest management in tropical countries [see separate report].

Mr van Benthem also presented preliminary findings from the STTC’s survey of importers in Europe’s five biggest consumer countries on action and support needed to promote verified sustainable tropical timber [see separate report].

Among  speakers addressing the subject ‘Navigating the journey from EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) through to verified sustainable’, IDH Program Manager Nienke Sleurink looked at development of Verified Sourcing Area methodology in Mato Grosso in Brazil. This covered the range of forest area commodities. Pilot studies had been conducted for beef and were now being examined for timber, she said. She also addressed benchmarking of the Brazilian Sisflora legality and sustainability scheme with the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), FSC and PEFC. This showed that it satisfied many of them.

UK Timber Trade Federation Managing Director David Hopkins took the topic ‘FLEGT and Certification – Achieving Mutual Benefit’. He argued that with just 6.5% of tropical forest certified so far, complementary strategies were needed to drive progress to verified legal and sustainable forest management and timber production. He contended that FLEGT could be one, with its Voluntary Partnership Agreement scheme for suppliers meeting many criteria of certification and acting as a step towards it. “The key is to get suppliers on the bus to sustainability,” he said. “Then we can improve the bus as we go along.”

Jesse Kuijper of the Borneo Initiative, however, argued that FSC certification was ultimately the ‘bus’ the industry should board, given its comprehensive incorporation of social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability. The multi-stakeholder Borneo Initiative had demonstrated this, he argued, leading to 3 million ha of Indonesian forest achieving FSC certification and 2 million ha the FSC Controlled Wood standard, with a target of 8 million ha for each by 2030.

Eric de Munck, of the Netherlands Timber Trade Association and the sector’s new Centrum Hout market development body, described what pan-industry cooperation in his country was achieving in verified sustainable tropical timber promotion, including through use of life cycle assessment.

These and other presentations inspired wide ranging delegate debate and inquiry. There was also a rolling programme of conversation sessions. Here speakers introduced subjects,  from the impact of certification on landscapes in Indonesia and Peru, to market trends from the perspective of a concession holder and international trader. Conference participants then had the opportunity to explore topics further.

Round table discussions, led by inspirational moderator Peter Woodward, also generated ideas for the sector to grow sustainable tropical timber market share. These included:

  • Working more closely on deforestation free supply chains with other forest area commodity industries
  • Recruiting a tropical timber champion to lobby for the multiple values of the industry
  • Forming an action plan to improve the image of tropical timber
  • Stronger communication of the carbon benefits of using timber
  • Creating an NGO coalition within the STTC
  • Targeting specific specifier/end user audiences, based on the model of the Centrum Hout/Netherlands industry Hout in de GWW tropical timber marine engineering initiative
  • Backing a global reforestation programme.

In his keynote, meteorologist Reinier van den Berg of Meteo Group stressed the urgency of climate change and that the ‘number one’ tool for mitigating it was forest protection, reforestation and substitution of energy intensive materials with wood. The clock could be turned back, he said, but in terms of hitting targets on global warming it already stood at five past midnight.

Click here for the full conference report and here for the presentations STTC conference.

Photo Mark van Benthem, Probos

Data key to the future of the sustainable tropical timber market

The new STTC and IDH report, ‘Unlocking Sustainable Tropical Timber Market Growth Through Data’, underlines what is at stake in Europe committing to source verified sustainable tropical timber. It contends that, if all 28 EU member states imported 100% verified sustainable primary tropical timber products, it could have a positive impact, in terms of sustainable forest management (SFM) uptake, on around 16 million ha of semi- and natural tropical forests.

The report – unveiled at the STTC Conference and set to become an annual publication – was co-authored by timber and forest sustainability advisors and analysts Probos and the Global Timber Forum. Its premise is that accurate data on market size and trade flows is vital for informing sustainable tropical timber market development and promotion. It maintains that this, in turn, is vital to incentivizing uptake of SFM in tropical countries, with the environmental positives this brings.

“Tropical forests are globally significant – they are home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, they sequester enormous amounts of carbon and sustain local communities and businesses,” states the report. “Sustainable forest management offers a way to support their long-term health. When sustainably managed through high standard certification or equivalent governance, tropical forest can be maintained and protected from illegal logging, encroachment, or conversion to agribusiness.”

The new report uses the ‘exposure to certification’ approach to calculate verified sustainable tropical timber trade flows into Europe. This provides a ‘proxy for market share’, and essentially takes the percentage of productive forest area certified in a supplier country as the basis of the percentage of certified timber exported to a consumer country.

By this measure, it calculates that the seven leading EU tropical timber consuming countries, between them accounting for 90% of total EU imports, are importing an average between 25% and 32% verified sustainable tropical primary material. The country figures vary widely, from 67.5% for the Netherlands to 5% for Spain.

By projecting these figures onto forest areas, the report calculates that EU 28 country procurement currently impacts 2.7-4.4 million ha, or 18-30%, of all certified sustainably managed natural and semi-natural tropical forest. Extrapolated, that gives the figure 16 million ha positively impacted if the entire EU sourced exclusively verified sustainable timber.

It also concludes that “based on the assumption that certification will prevent premature reentry logging, the EU trade in certified tropical timber has the potential to mitigate 55 to 88 million metric tonnes of CO2 a year”.

The report goes into more detail on the primary tropical timber imports of the seven leading EU consuming countries. It also looks at the relationship of SFM and the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement initiative (FLEGT VPA), which, it says stimulates uptake of SFM practices. Currently only Indonesia has fully implemented its VPA and is exporting FLEGT-licensed timber to the EU. But this means that 11% of primary tropical timber exposed to certification imported by the EU is also accompanied by a FLEGT-license, bringing the overall percentage certified or FLEGT-licensed to around 40%.

Also used as a reference is data gathered via members of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT). This comprises analysis of exports to Europe from five leading producers in Cameroon, Gabon and Congo Republic and the share certified.

The report concludes by acknowledging that the approximate 25% and 32% average share of EU primary tropical timber imports currently accounted for by verified sustainable material is ‘far below the STTC goal of 50% by 2020’. So, it says, ‘decisive action’ and collaboration between private and public sector stakeholders and NGOs is needed to increase sustainable tropical timber demand. Also required is ‘data and transparency’ to understand what is needed in terms of market support and where to apply it.

Concluding the report states that ‘market demand for sustainable tropical timber needs to become mainstream’, but it is upbeat about the opportunities. “Through intensified European ambition and joint public-private actions, we have the chance to protect the world’s forests,” it states.

Click here for the report and here for the presentation by Probos’ Mark van Benthem at the STTC conference.

Blueprint for a promotional highway

Photo Mariska Massop

Netherlands industry action to encourage use of verified sustainable tropical timber, now looks set to inform similar moves elsewhere in Europe.

The various initiatives were described at the STTC Conference by Eric de Munck of the timber market development body Centrum Hout. Among them was its work with a group of companies to promote the advantages of verified sustainable tropical wood in marine civil engineering applications.

The ‘Hout in de GWW’ initiative brings together 12 tropical timber providers. With Centrum Hout they formulated a joint strategy for taking key industry messaging to the civil engineering sector, targeting the most influential decision makers within the profession.

Supported by the STTC, Centrum Hout fed results from its life cycle analysis into the project, comparing the environmental performance of tropical timber species in sheet piling, bridges and other applications, versus steel, plastics and concrete. The outcomes – which were strongly favourable to timber – were widely disseminated through publications, online and at special meetings for engineers. An online CO2 calculator was also developed to reinforce the messaging and guidance issued on use of tropical species, including lesser known varieties. The calculator is in English, French, Dutch and German and included in the list of tropical timber promotional tools on the STTC website.

In its second phase, Hout in de GWW is also focused on raising currently low levels of local government awareness of the benefits of using verified sustainable tropical timber.

“The goal is to get as many authorities as possible committed to verified sustainable wood and wood products in civil works and refrain from using products with less positive climate and environmental footprints,” said Mr de Munck.

The Dutch Ministry of Transport and Waterways is also evaluating use of timber more widely and has commissioned more LCA research. One result is the ‘Biobased highway’ concept, developed by the Ministry as a model for using timber and other biobased materials for roadway fixtures and fittings, from safety and noise barriers, to lampposts and roadside wind turbines. The goal,  said Mr de Munck, is to shrink the carbon footprint, as part of the overall environmental impact, of infrastructure development.

Centrum Hout is now sharing its LCA work and know-how, with, among others, the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT). The aim is to develop a similar tropical timber database for France, where government is demanding LCA for building products by 2021.

Additionally Centrum Hout, together with the Working Group Sustainability of the European Woodworking Industries Confederation, CEI-Bois, is evaluating possibilities for establishing a common European database for wood LCA information as a basis for country-specific analysis.

“The Danish government is also looking into a way to define the environmental impact of buildings and building materials as a whole and is interested in learning from the Netherlands, where we already have a method, database and regulations for this in our building code. We also have a specific adaption of this system for civil works, called DuboCalc,” said Mr de Munck. “Perhaps as a spin-off from the STTC Conference, there will be an exchange of views on the topic in the new year.”

The overall pan-industry Dutch strategy for timber promotion, presented  by Mr de Munck at the Conference, with the whole sector, tropical and temperate, working together, is also seen as providing a model for a wider marketing programme.

“It was positively received at the Conference and it would be good, if, perhaps under the flag of STTC, there could be consultation among parties willing to develop a similar blueprint for use all over Europe,” said Mr de Munck.

The STTC responded that it would be interested in supporting spin-offs from the Dutch initiatives.

Mr de Munck’s presentation can be found here.

STTC importer survey reinforces need for coordinated marketing

Photo Mariska Massop

The STTC Conference saw the main findings released from its European importers survey, looking at their experience of tropical timber promotion and views on market prospects and development.

The survey was commissioned from forest sustainability analysts and advisors Probos by STTC and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative. It targeted key importers in Europe’s seven leading tropical timber consuming countries and, at the time of the Conference, 33 responses had been received in total from the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy.

Respondents were asked whether they expected tropical timber sales to increase, fall or remain stable. Only in the case of the Netherlands did a greater number anticipate an increase than a decrease. At the same time, the majority expected the share of the tropical timber market taken by certified sustainable material to rise.

The survey questioned importers on what they felt was needed in their country to promote sustainable tropical timber and what tools were used. They were asked how much support there was from trade federations and what level of knowledge or use there was of FSC and PEFC communications, the www.europeansttc.com website as an information hub, tropical timber life cycle analysis, specification guides and other promotional material and resources, such as the Fair&Precious branding campaign.

Respondents felt there was market momentum for greater use of timber. “However, they had limited awareness of marketing campaigns and tools, what tools they did know they felt had limited impact and generally their own communication was ‘passive’ to non-existent,” said Mark van Benthem of Probos.

The key requirements from marketing, according to respondents, were generation of greater demand for tropical timber, which, according to importers in many countries, meant that end-consumers needed to be targeted. Establishing greater trust in tropical timber and certification schemes was also deemed crucial. To succeed, marketing also needed to be backed by greater and more consistent supply of verified sustainable material.

Initial conclusions from the feedback included that a more coordinated, less fragmented approach is needed in marketing, while at the same time, it had to be tailored to the requirements of each country. Companies also looked to their trade federations as marketing and communications hubs, so their investment and involvement was also important.

Respondents additionally raised the importance of verified sustainable tropical timber being price competitive and said price differentials between certified and uncertified should be tackled.

“But feedback was also that the onus is on the trade to take responsibility and insist that wood must come from sustainably managed forest,” said Mr van Benthem.

Mr van Benthem had also earlier directed some of the key questions on sustainable tropical timber marketing to the audience at the UK Timber Trade Federation’s Tropical Timber Forum in London. Comprising principally importers, delegates at the October event said in their experience the preferred term was timber ‘sourced from well-managed forests’ rather than sustainable. They also commented that lack of specification by customers meant the amount of timber they sourced as certified sustainable exceeded the amount they sold.

The consensus was that more and more collective trade-wide promotion of verified sustainable tropical timber was needed. Government and architects especially needed to be persuaded to specify it and the latter needed more timber training, said delegates.
Marketing lessons could also be learned from other sectors, including retail.

“Look at the example of the gin market,” said one importer. “Not long ago, it was an outdated, fringe product for the old-fashioned drinker. Now it’s the must-have, on-trend spirit for the young, fashion-conscious consumer. It shows what can be achieved with smart, inventive, targeted marketing and communication.”

Another STTC presentation gave a prime example of industry successfully working together in sustainable tropical timber marketing; a precompetitive collaboration in the Netherlands to promote wood from responsible managed forests use in civil engineering.

Fair&Precious website gets an impactful makeover

The Fair&Precious (F&P) website has been redesigned and relaunched, featuring sections targeting specific tropical timber consumers, specifiers and market influencers and new videos on the multiple benefits of using certified sustainable tropical material.

The promotional campaign, launched by ATIBT in 2016, now prominently flags up on its home page that it is working closely in collaboration with the STTC on verified sustainable tropical timber market development.

Under its ‘You are’ section, the new site also tailors its campaign messaging to five key market groups; private consumers, industry professionals, distributors, public bodies and journalists.

The private consumer page, for instance, highlights how sustainable forest management preserves habitats, flora and fauna, creates livelihoods, supports the well-being of local communities, delivers climate benefits and helps deter forest conversion.

“Buying FSC, or PEFC-PAFC certified timber helps to encourage a sustainable industry, and means buying an exceptional natural material with unmatched ecological impact,” it says.

The site also includes an impactfully revised presentation of the 10 commitments of F&P campaign supporters on sustainable, and socially responsible tropical timber sourcing.

The press area and media library provide a wide range of articles and publications on F&P, its campaign and sourcing and using tropical timber from certified sustainably managed forests.

The professionally produced 40-second videos give a concise commentary on the values and approach to forestry of F&P forest managers. These focus on their contribution to combating wildlife poaching, provision of healthcare, education and access to housing for families in forest areas and contribution to socio-economic benefit.

They also look at the technical performance, aesthetics, design potential and multiple uses of tropical timber, from decking to railway sleepers.

All the videos conclude with the catchline ‘Certified African wood – much more than just wood’.

In addition the website provides contact information for visitors who want to know more and links for the joint STTC and F&P newsletter and becoming an F&P member.

Ökobilanzen Nützlich für die Laubholzwirtschaft

Holz-Zentralblatt | Freitag, 6 Dezember 2019 | nummer 49

Akteure der Laubholzwirtschaft aus Europa und einzelne auch von anderen Kontinenten trafen sich am 20. und 21. November in Berlin zu zwei Konferenzen: zur Europäischen Konferenz der Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC) und zur “International Hardwood Conference- IHC”. Es gab Überschneidungen bei Teilnehmern, Referenten und Fragestellungen. Eines der durchgehenden Themen war die bessere Positionierung der Branche und ihrer Produkte. In der Öffentlichkeit beobachtet die Branche gegenüber sich selbst und gegenüber Laubholzprodukten viel Unwissenheit, Unsicherheit, Skepsis und teilweise auch Ablehnung. Gleichzeitig hält die Branche jedoch ihr eigenes Tun und ihre Produkte für vorbildlich.

Read more

Unlocking Sustainable Tropical Timber Market Growth Through Data

Between 25% and 32% of the primary tropical timber imported into the EU28 was exposed to sustainable timber certification, reveals the latest Probos and GTF Tropical Timber Market Data report. There exist great room for improvement and this number demands decisive action by all stakeholders.

The  seven main importing countries (Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain) together represent approximately 90% of the EU28 primary tropical timber product import. The concentration of imports in these seven countries provides a strong lever for change. A rapid shift towards sustainable timber could have wide-ranging consequences for the world’s tropical forests.

If the EU28 sourced 100% verified sustainable, it could positively impact an additional 11.7 to 13.4 million hectares of tropical forest. Based on the assumption that certification will prevent premature re-entry logging in the areas it covers, the EU trade in certified tropical timber has the potential to mitigate 55 to 88 million metric tons CO2 a year.

In order to achieve the above impacts and beyond, NGOs, governments, and the private sector in EU timber importing countries not only need to commit to 100% sourcing of verified sustainable tropical timber but also promote the use of sustainable tropical timber as a material, and encourage market growth. We ask civil society and knowledge institutions to support countering the narrative that all timber is not sustainable and to encourage countries with low sustainable sourcing rates to prioritize sustainability. European governments must address sustainable tropical timber in their procurement policies and enhance EUTR enforcement. And all of Europe must continue to work in partnership with key supplier countries and increase international cooperation with other emerging economies. The private sector must drive increases in demand. Buyers must increase purchases, promote sustainable timber to customers, and ensure that the benefits and sustainability of products that bear labels like FSC and PEFC are communicated. All stakeholders’ contributions and collaboration are necessary to generate quality monitoring information – greater industry involvement and transparency will allow to develop powerful and specific solutions to growing sustainable tropical timber imports.

It is only through intensified European ambitions and joint public-private actions that we will have the chance to protect and restore tropical forests. Thus, in line with the release of the latest EU Communication (2019) on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, we urge the top importing and consuming countries in EU to recommit to 100% sustainable tropical timber.

Green supply chain network launches at Shanghai Forum

The creation of an international, pan-industry coalition to enhance forests’ multiple values and drive forest and timber sector legality and sustainability was agreed at the recent forum, Together Towards Global Green Supply Chains. Another outcome of the Shanghai meeting was a cooperative agreement between organisations representing Asian and European businesses active in the Gabon forest sector.

The forum drew a 350-strong audience from around the world, including major operations in the tropical timber products industry and trade. It was co-organised by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA), the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), and China’s Center for International Forest Products Trade/National Forestry and Grassland Administration (CINFT/NFGA).

Speakers said the world is facing unparalleled environmental risks and challenges. Forests were both threatened by climate change and wider environmental degradation, and at the same time held potential solutions for both. They needed protection and the forestry and timber sectors could be key to delivering it.

“Forests, especially tropical forests, contain extraordinary biodiversity, are crucial for  climate-change mitigation, and have huge cultural importance,” said John Leigh, Chair of the ITTO. “Yet the land they occupy is also valuable for farming,  mining and urban development. To minimize the risk of losing forests, it’s imperative they generate economic benefits for development, income, jobs, and livelihoods. This is why we need green supply chains to ensure stable supplies of legal, sustainable timber from sustainably managed forests.”

The new coalition, the Global Green Supply Chains Network, is open to forest companies and other timber sector stakeholders in producer and consumer countries. It pledges to ‘promote sustainable development of forest industries and contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of global forest resources’.

The network is open to others along the supply chain to join, through to consumers. It will promote exchange and business and technical  cooperation across forestry and timber sectors. The Shanghai Forum organisers also committed to back it, with ITTO bringing the support of its Legal and Sustainable Supply Chains Programme.

“The development of global green supply chains will enhance the production, processing, distribution and consumption of legal and sustainable timber and forest products, including tropical timber,” said ATIBT president Robert Hunink. “It will bring benefits to all stakeholders and help solve some of the world’s most urgent problems.”

“The industry faces many challenges in global adoption of green wood supply chains,” said Zhu Guangquan, Chief Expert of CTWPDA. “It requires a spirit of partnership throughout the industry.”

Next steps in development of the network will be sharing experiences of the existing Global Green Supply Chain (GGSC) platform in China and creation of an open access  information database incorporating the Global Timber Tracking Network (GTTN). Participants will also support inter-business communication and exchange, with monthly publication of GGSC Network updates and timber and wood products market data. In addition, an entrepreneurs and private-sector expert team will be formed to feed in its views.

“From ITTO’s perspective, the significance of the new Network will be determined by how successfully it is managed, while it is aimed to attract stakeholders who are committed to being part of legal and sustainable supply chains (LSSC),” said ITTO Director Operations Sheam Satkuru. “The participation and support from a select group of the Chinese forestry and wood products sector can be seen as catalytic towards establishing legal and sustainable supply chains and the network is foreseen to expand to several regions globally.”

Also in Shanghai, the Union of Forest Industries and Managers  of Gabon (UFIGA) and the Union of Asian Forest Industries of Gabon (UFIAG) agreed to extend their cooperation in support of the GGSC Initiative. All Gabonese forest industries committed to work towards independent third party certification of legality and/or sustainability over the next three years. “This is crucial to achieve a much needed level playing field, and at the same time to improve the image of our industry,” said Mr Hunink. “ATIBT will try to convince governments and federations in other Congo Basin countries to follow suit.”

“ATIBT and the CTWPDA also signed an agreement in Huzhou, China, [venue for the CTWPDA wood flooring and hardwood conference, following the Shanghai meeting] to intensify exchanges on sustainable management and responsible supply chains,” said ATIBT Managing Director Benoît Jobbé-Duval, adding that his organisation will also work closely with the GGSC Secretariat in China.

Sustainable tropical timber – a shared goal

New speakers have been announced for the STTC 2019 Conference, Exploring pathways to sustainable tropical timber. The November 20 event in Berlin also looks like attracting a capacity audience, with over a 100 registrations from across Europe and timber supplier countries.

Latest confirmed speakers include Jesse Kuijper of the Borneo Initiative who will look at impacts of certification on landscapes and David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, who will examine common ground between the EUTR, FLEGT and certification.

Rui Pedro de Almeida Ribeiro and Priscyla Rocha Silva, consultants working on a Verified Sourcing Area project in Mato Grosso, Brazil, will take part in round-table dialogues with delegates, and Benoît Jobbé-Duval of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), Stefan Meinhardt  of tropical timber specialist Hupkes, Christophe Janssen of Interholco and Ingrid Hontis of Belgian textile, wood and furniture federation Fedustria, will participate in a panel discussion on tackling Europe’s declining use of tropical timber.

At the time of publication, 120 delegates had registered for the Conference, which means it is nearly fully booked.

The theme of the day is how verified sustainable forest management can build on regional and national initiatives, such as the EU FLEGT VPA programme and Verified Sourcing Areas, to help achieve a common goal – a legal, sustainable and commercially viable tropical timber market for the long-term. It will also address the part PR and Communication tools and data can play the process.

Under the theme Navigating the journey from EUTR through to verified sustainable, Mark van Benthem of Probos will present findings of a new study, undertaken with the Global Timber Forum, on EU 28 verified sustainable tropical timber market share.  IDH Programme Manager Nienke Sleurink will also address what the timber sector can learn from use of Verified Sourcing Areas in the Brazilian beef sector.

Wilhelm Unnerstall for the host city of Berlin, itself an STTC member, will describe how it promotes tropical timber use through its procurement policy and Eric de Munck, of the Netherlands Timber Trade Association (NTTA), will look at how timber trade federations can act as catalysts for industry-wide cooperation to grow the sustainable tropical timber market.

The Conference keynote will be delivered by Reinier van den Berg  of meteorological services operation MeteoGroup; his theme, the importance of sustainably managed forests and use of verified sustainable timber in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement.

In common with previous STTC Conferences, a central focus of the Berlin event will be delegate participation. There will be round table discussions in both the morning and afternoon, where participants can address issues raised by speakers, ask questions,  and  share experience and new ideas on sustainable tropical timber promotion and market growth.  Among other discussion leaders will be Nele Schmitz of the Thunen Institute, Ben Romein of FSC Netherlands, George White of the Global Timber Forum and Indra van Gisbergen of FERN.

The STTC Conference takes place at Berlin’s Hotel Amano Central the day before the International Hardwood Conference at the same venue, enabling delegates to attend both.

For more information and to register go to the STTC website.


Gabon incentivized to save forests and cut emissions

Photo JB Dodane

Gabon is set to receive $150 million over ten years for cutting emissions from forest degradation and deforestation and for the CO2 sequestration of its natural forests. The deal, under the UN REDD+ programme, was brokered with the country by the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) on behalf of funder Norway. It was announced by Gabonese Forests Minister Lee White at the Climate Action Summit at the UN in September.

The initiative, which will be subject to third party verification, sets a carbon floor price of $10 per certified ton to incentivize forest maintenance and emissions reduction. Payments will also be retrospective, covering Gabon’s achievement in this area going back to 2016.

“We have to raise the value of Gabonese rainforests to ensure conservation and sustainable exploitation can be used as tools to improve living standards by creating jobs and livelihoods, whilst also sustaining natural capital,” said Mr White. “Norway’s agreement to double the price of a ton of rainforest carbon dioxide is highly significant and gives us hope that the international community will move towards a realistic price that will provide a real incentive for rainforest countries to follow our example.”

Norway  Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen described the project as ‘historic’. “It properly takes into account Gabon’s special status as a country with high forest cover and low deforestation,” he said. “It is 88% covered with forests, and I hope our partnership can help them reach their goal to maintain 98% of that for the future.”

According to CAFI, Central African forests and peatlands store up to 70 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 5-10 years’ global greenhouse gas emissions. Emmanuel Groutel expert in strategy and international markets at WALE welcomed the Gabonese initiative and said it could be a model for fellow supplier states. “The whole world must support Gabon because what it is proposed is an example of virtuous development that preserves the environment and shows the way forward for other countries in the region,” he said.

ATIBT President Robert Hunink applauded the Gabon initiative. “I hope that other Congo Basin countries consider following this example. It would truly be a great contribution towards climate change mitigation,” he said. “However, in other to convince governments that forest conservation could be an alternative income model to conventional harvesting, carbon prices need to reflect this. And last but not least, socio-economic development should not be negatively impacted by these agreements.”

In 2018, Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba stated that all forest concessions in the country must be certified by 2022.