It worked in committing European public and private sectors to procure sustainably sourced soya and palm oil. The Green Deal took a similar approach and had similar impact in pledging key market players and opinion formers in the Netherlands to buy and use only sustainably sourced timber and wood products.
Now the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Council (STTC) plans to emulate that success. In 2017 it aims to bring European public and private partners together to develop a Declaration, with a target of sourcing exclusively sustainable tropical timber by 2020, as part of its climate commitments. The document is to be signed by European political and market decision makers, buyers, end users and retailers, stating that they will procure only sustainably sourced timber timber and help drive a robust and sustainable market for it.
Tropical timber is an incredibly diverse, versatile and beautiful material. It can be used in everything from decorative interior fittings, furniture and flooring, to exterior joinery and heavy-duty industrial applications, such as canal siding and sea defences.. What is more, we have only tapped a part of its potential. There are still many lesser known tropical species which are barely used in Europe, but which can be sourced sustainably and which the STTC is now promoting.
But committing to buying only sustainably sourced timber does far more than grow the European market for a high performance, good-looking manufacturing and construction raw material. Increasing, reliable demand will incentivise producers, as well as governments of producing countries, to continue to invest in sustainable forest management.
“It’s been manifestly shown that a strong, viable market place for their timber is key to helping spread supplier uptake of sustainable forest management strategies,” said André de Boer, Secretary General of STTC Principal Partner the European Timber Trade Federation. “Likewise if demand for sustainably sourced tropical timber in an environmentally concerned market like Europe declines, producers as well as governments regulating them can feel compelled to lower the bar. This is likely to lead to conversion of forest land to other uses, such as soya or palm oil plantation.”
Moreover, states the STTC, the healthy, renewable forest that results from sustainable management helps preserve biodiversity. It sucks climate changing CO2 out of the atmosphere and can store it for generations. The resulting sustainable tropical timber, in turn, is low energy to process and acts as a long-lasting carbon sink. In life cycle assessment, the STTC has also shown it easily outperforms rival man-made materials in a range of applications. In terms of environmental impacts, it is a clear win-win.
The European Declaration for Sustainable Tropical Timber is work in process, with more detail to be revealed at the 2017 STTC annual conference.