TRAFFIC Logo

Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 11th October 2012

Timber import requirements to safeguard biodiversity compared

Cambridge, UK and Hyderabad, India, 11th October 2012—A TRAFFIC paper analysing and comparing the different requirements under various regulatory systems for legal importation of timber into the European Union (EU) has been launched today in India. 


Rotterdam: a major port for timber imports into the EU © Guus Krol / Flickr-com-Creative-Commons

Trading timbers: A comparison of import requirements under CITES, FLEGT and related EU legislation for timber species in trade should help inform discussions at the current Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting about methods to support safeguards for biodiversity with regard to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the Role of Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Enhancement Of Forest Carbon Stocks in Developing Countries (REDD+). 

The document analyses and compares requirements of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, the EU Timber Regulation and the Convention on Interternational Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for timber imported into the EU, with a focus on the requirements of each for ensuring that timber is legally sourced.

Illegal logging has been a topic of serious national, regional and global concern for several decades, due to its serious impacts on forest biodiversity, wildlife habitat, soil quality, access to water, poverty, greenhouse gas emissions and governance. 

The EU’s policy to “address the growing problem of illegal logging and related trade” was defined in 2003 through the FLEGT Action Plan. The Action Plan has led to the development of two key legal instruments: the FLEGT Regulation (2005), which allows for the control of the entry of timber into the EU from countries entering into bilateral FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the EU and the EU Timber Regulation (2010), an overarching measure to prohibit placing of illegal timber and timber products on the internal market. This regulation is due to come into force in March 2013.

These regulations have been developed against the backdrop of the pre-existing CITES rules, which establish a permit-based system of trade controls on species listed in the Convention’s Appendices, including a number of commercially important timber species, and the US Lacey Act, which was amended in May 2008 to prohibit trade in plants and plant products that are sourced illegally from within the US or an outside country.

According to the new analysis, potential issues arise in relation to CITES Appendix III-listed species being exported from countries not listing the taxon in that Appendix and thus not requiring any assurance of legality. There is a risk this could result in illegal exports wrongly being recognized through the EU Timber Regulation as legally harvested. There are also complications arising from the differing levels of legal acquisition findings required under CITES and the EU Timber Regulation.

Recommendations include the development and issuance of further guidance on the above issues, and improved communications between relevant advising and enforcement bodies, particularly timber and wildlife trade authorities.

This paper also supports issues currently discussed at the Convention on Biological Diversity, particularly those surrounding REDD+ (PDF, background document).