Published 9 July 2010

European parliament bans illegal timber imports

Brussels, Belgium, 9th July 2010—The European parliament has voted to pass new legislation that will require companies importing and selling timber in the EU to demonstrate they have exercised “due diligence” to ensure their timber has been felled legally.

From 2012, companies importing timber into the EU will be required to document the supply chain. © Roland Melisch / TRAFFIC

From 2012, companies operating in the EU will be required to document the supply chain for their timber imports. Companies failing to do so will face legal sanctions. 

“The introduction of this legislation is an important step towards full traceability in the timber trade chain, from producer to consumer,” said Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Global Forest Trade Programme Leader. 

“It will help ensure legal operators are not undercut by those operating outside of the law.”

Currently around 20% of timber imports into the European Union are believed to come from illegal sources. 

Illegal timber trade is a major source of deforestation and a major cause of revenue loss to governments of producer countries. 

In 2007, a TRAFFIC report into the timber trade in Tanzania estimated the annual timber revenue loss from illicit activities to be around US$58 million per year, equivalent to the cost of building around 2,000 schools. 

The European legislation comes after the US amended the Lacey Act to include timber products. The Lacey Act prohibits the import, sale or trade of wood and wood products in the USA that were illegally-harvested in their country of origin.

The EU and US are major markets for timber exports and the respective legislation will ban supplies obtained in contravention of laws in producer countries, thereby helping legal suppliers, such as members of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) initiative. 

GFTN members are currently working towards a timber certification scheme; they include more than 285 companies, including manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, forest owners and managers.

TRAFFIC’s forestry programme has been closely involved in the development of the GFTN, in particular helping formulate a legal framework for verification of forestry and timber trade in countries including China, Viet Nam, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Gabon. 

“The work on the legality requirements in these countries will support both the Lacey verification process and that of the impending EU regulations,” said Chen Hin Keong. 

Key to success for the new EU legislation will be its effective and rigorous enforcement. 

“TRAFFIC calls upon EU Member States to ensure that penalties for violation of this regulation are set at a level which acts as an effective deterrent against procurement of illegally sourced timber”, said Rob Parry-Jones, Director of TRAFFIC Europe. 

The new regulation now awaits final adoption by the Council of European Ministers.