Bringing tropical timber on board with Amsterdam Declaration

EU-wide action to ensure import of 100% sustainably sourced forest commodities, including tropical timber, was the topic of a special Sustainable Tropical Timber Event organised by IDH,The Sustainable Trade Initiative and the STTC. Preliminary findings of the new market report on verified sustainable tropical timber imports were presented, concluding that 25-32% of tropical timer imported into the EU is ‘exposed’ to certification.

The Utrecht event on 12 June attracted public and private sector delegates. It was part of a series of events IDH organized during the International Sustainability Week Towards Deforestation-free, Sustainable Commodities of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership (ADP). The ADP commits its signatories to eliminate deforestation resulting from trade in agro-commodities by 2020, comprising beef, leather, palm oil, paper, pulp, cocoa and rubber. The fact that it does not include timber and that action on all forest-risk commodities is not moving fast enough are the focus of a just-published IDH report, The Data Speaks.  and were also the theme of the Utrecht meeting. The concern was that, without further measures and the inclusion of timber in any strategy, ADP signatories may not hit their 2020 target.

“Commitments matter, but stopping global deforestation will take more than words. It requires real actions from European producers and on the ground in producing countries, while transforming markets globally,” states IDH. “With 2020 coming closer, it is clear that the ambitious objectives of many players concerning no-deforestation in supply chains will not be met.”

The conference included the release of the preliminary findings of the forthcoming STTC and IDH report on European market share of verified sustainable tropical timber from forests and timber sustainability advisors and analysts Probos and the Global Timber Forum (GTF).  This looks at latest trade trends in verified sustainable tropical timber, concluding that 25-32% of tropical timer imported into the EU is ‘exposed’ to certification (that equates to the certified production forest area of supplier countries). It also estimated that 12.5 million ha of tropical forest would additionally be impacted if the EU imported 100% verified sustainable timber.

The audience agreed with the findings and recommendations of the report, which was commissioned by STTC/IDH. “They also made important points and raised questions,” said Mark van Benthem of Probos. ”They highlighted the need to include secondary timber products in these kind of studies, like furniture and flooring, and for more insight into indirect imports, such as those from China into the EU”.

Delegates also asked whether a greater area of sustainably managed, certified forest in South East Asia could be linked to FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement being in place with Indonesia. As far as the audience knew, there has not been research bringing evidence of a relationship. In addition, MTCS and The Borneo Initiative have been working in the region pushing for certification in the region for 2 decades already.

At the Conference, Chris Beeko of the Ghanaian Forestry Commission also addressed FLEGT and its Voluntary Partnership Agreement programme. He explained that, although the market has shifted dramatically since the start of the FLEGT process and Europe now only plays a minor role for the Ghanaian timber trade, the country is keen to proceed with the FLEGT programme, which has significantly benefited  the forest based sector through greater stakeholder participation, implementation of timber tracking and other developments.

This was followed by a discussion on the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Initiative (FLEGT) and certification between UK Timber Trade Federation Managing Director, David Hopkins, Remi Souria of the PEFC and John Hontelez of FSC.

The central question was on how FLEGT can be a stepping stone towards sustainability and lay foundations on which sustainable forest management measures can build. Differences between FLEGT and certification mentioned were that one is mandatory, the other voluntary and that the former may allow genetic modification, but PEFC and FSC do not. FLEGT also brings scale, in terms of nationwide coverage and product volume, whereas certification takes less time to implement.

A sign that the two are recognising that they can be complementary, however, was FLEGT countries exploring the possibility with PEFC of additionally adopting certification. In general, there was agreement on the importance and role of FLEGT among the speaker panel.

At the event, IDH Landscapes Program Director Daan Wensing also explained the nine actions to drive sustainable forest commodities sourcing detailed in The Data Speaks report.