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Helping China cut imports of illegal timber

The UK is working with the Chinese government on the prevention of imports of illegally harvested timber, through a new two-year project. This £540,000 project, the Joint Study to Assess Options for a Chinese Timber Legality Verification Scheme, is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the China State Forestry Administration (SFA).

Launched on 4 December 2009, the project will develop detailed proposals on the establishment of a practical timber legality verification scheme in China which will promote the utilisation of legally-produced timber products in the international trade.

China is the world’s largest timber importer and a major exporter of timber products. Illegal logging contributes to climate change and biodiversity loss by destroying forests. It also negatively affects local communities’ livelihoods and makes it harder for sustainably-harvested timber to succeed in the marketplace.

Legislation to combat illegal logging

Governments from developed countries have initiated legislation to curb illegal logging. For example, in May 2008 the US introduced the Lacey Act amendment to prevent trade of illegally harvested timber. Now, the EU is finalising new legislation that will require all businesses that first sell any wood product in the EU to minimise the risk that it has been produced from illegal logging.

Through the UK-China Sustainable Development Dialogue (SDD), DEFRA and DFID are working closely with the Chinese Academy of Forestry and its sponsor SFA to find options for cost-efficient timber legality verification schemes which could work in the Chinese context. To make sure these options are grounded in reality, they will be pilot tested with a sample of companies, working back through their supply chains to the countries where the timber is being harvested. Working with the private sectors and NGOs will allow real problems to be identified and practical solutions found.

Ms. Zhang Yanhong, Director General of the State Forestry Administration said:

“The project will serve as a basis for the Chinese government to develop its options for timber legality verification. SFA is very grateful for the timely support from the UK government for its demonstrated commitment to work with the Chinese government on enhancing its capacity to tackle the illegal logging problem and promote a responsible timber trade.”

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