Countries around the world are acting to combat illegal logging and foster good forest governance. In this section of FLEGT.org you will find information about the approaches that countries are taking, as well as about initiatives that cross national borders. If you would like to share information about global action, please contact us.
Timeline of actions to fight illegal logging
Forests cover 16% of Australia’s land area. Australia imports timber worth about EUR 2.75 billion each year and produces many timber products.
Australia’s Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 aims to combat trade in illegally logged timber products. This Act applies to all Australian businesses and treats all timber equally, regardless of its origin.
The Act bans Australian businesses from importing illegally logged timber and illegal timber products into Australia. The Act also prohibits companies from processing Australian-grown logs that have been illegally harvested. It establishes comprehensive monitoring and investigation powers, and sets out penalties for Australian businesses that do not comply with the Act.
Forests cover more than a fifth of China’s land mass. China imports more timber than any other country. Imported wood is mainly processed into timber products for domestic consumption or for export to international markets. Between 2000 and 2010, China banned logging in natural forests. The government plans to re-introduce a ban on logging natural forest for commercial purposes by the end of 2017.
In 2007, China and the EU held an EU-China Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Conference in Beijing. The conference was followed by meetings to discuss a Bilateral Coordination Mechanism. In 2009, the EU and China agreed to set up such a mechanism and to undertake joint activities each year to support policy dialogue. Activities have included raising awareness, chain of custody management, timber tracking and information sharing. Discussions have focused on understanding EU market requirements and issues relating to the legality of timber imported into and exported from China.
In 2009 the Chinese State Forestry Administration and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce produced the Guide on Sustainable Overseas Forests Management and Utilization by Chinese Enterprises. The guidelines are applicable to all Chinese enterprises engaged in forest harvesting, wood processing and utilisation, and related activities in foreign countries. They guide Chinese enterprises to play a positive role in the sustainable development of global forest resources. The Guide is voluntary as there are no reporting requirements or compliance mechanisms.
Draft Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises have been developed by the Chinese State Forestry Administration and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. They are presently under negotiation.
Forests and plantations cover 40% of Canada’s land mass. The area of tree cover is 1.5 times the area of the European Union. Canada is a net exporter of timber and imports only small quantities of tropical wood.
Imports are subject to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which bans the import of illegally harvested timber. The government monitors domestic forestry operations to lower the risk of illegal logging.
The Act states that 'no person shall import into Canada any animal or plant that was taken, or any animal or plant, or any part or derivative of an animal or plant, that was possessed, distributed or transported in contravention of any law of any foreign state.' At present there is no enforcement structure for the legislation.
A fifth of India is covered by forest, but India is one of the world’s main importers of timber and wood-based products. The government has done little to tackle the importation of illegal timber, concentrating most effort on dealing with domestic illegalities.
Indonesia’s 90 million hectares of forests cover about half of its land mass. It is one of the world's principal exporters of tropical timber, exporting a wide variety of products, including plywood, furniture and pulp and paper. The main export markets are China, the EU, Japan and Korea. Indonesia signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU in 2013.
On 1 January 2016 a new system to control imports of timber products entered into force in Indonesia. Businesses importing certain regulated timber products are now required to register with the Ministry of Trade and to undertake 'due diligence' checks on their legality. The system is based on the regulations of the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The Ministry of Trade decrees state that imported timber and timber products require proof of legality from the country where they were harvested. Only registered traders and registered processing operators are allowed to import timber and/or timber products into Indonesia.
Nearly 70% of Japan is covered by forests. Japan is also one of the largest importers of tropical timber, sourcing imports mainly from Asia.
Japan has introduced a voluntary system called goho-wood (legal-wood) to promote trade in legally sourced wood products but currently has no binding legislation. Japanese legislators in both the ruling and opposition parties have committed to passing legislation to address the influx of illegal timber into Japan. Legislators aim to enact this law before the G7 in Japan at the end of May 2016 as part of Japan’s G8 commitment to address illegal logging.
Japan was one of the signatories to an environment-related action plan agreed at the 2005 meeting of the G8. The action plan states: 'We agree that working to tackle illegal logging is an important step towards the sustainable management of forests. To tackle this issue effectively requires action from both timber-producing and timber-consuming countries.' In 2006, Japan added goho-wood to the list of environmentally friendly goods that are subject to its Act on Promoting Green Purchasing. The law stipulates that 'Individual companies must voluntarily certify the legality and sustainability of wood and wood products and are expected to be held responsible for the above.'
Public procurement constitutes only 5% of total wood procurement in Japan. While some timber industry associations in Japan follow the voluntary guidelines for goho-wood, the system does not demand the level of due diligence called for by the EU Timber Regulation, the Lacey Act or the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act. A study published by Chatham House in November 2014 found that between 7 and 12% of total timber and paper-sector products imported by Japan were at risk of illegal logging.
Almost 60% of Malaysia's land area is forested. Timber is an important export product and a significant contributor to the country's economy. The EU is one of Malaysia's top three export markets for timber products. Malaysia began negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU in 2007. Draft timber legality assurance systems exist for Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah. Negotiations are currently on hold until agreement on the development of a timber legality assurance system for the state of Sarawak is reached.
On 1 January 2016, Peninsular Malaysia introduced a new regulation making it compulsory for importers to have evidence of the legality of imports of round logs, plywood and some sawn wood types from 1 June 2016 onwards. Evidence of legality must come from the original producer country and can be demonstrated in six ways, including through a not further specified customs declaration issued by the exporting country, timber certification documents or a FLEGT licence. The Malaysian Timber Industry Board will integrate the requirements of the new regulation into the timber legality assurance system for Peninsular Malaysia. The timber legality assurance system of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah will help ensure legality of Malaysian timber until a voluntary partnership agreement is finalised.
Importers of timber products not covered by the regulation are advised to obtain evidence of legality from producing countries, particularly for products which will undergo further processing, and be exported to EU Member States.
Forest and plantations cover almost 40% of the land area in New Zealand. Illegal logging is not a significant problem as imported timber represents less than 1% of domestic timber consumption.
In 2009, the government adopted a policy on domestic and international action on illegal logging and associated trade. The policy promotes a voluntary approach at national, bilateral and multilateral levels to curb trade in illegal timber.
A third of Norway has tree cover. In 2007 Norway issued a public procurement policy banning the use of tropical timber. Norway’s imports are subject to the legality and due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation.
Russia has the largest area of forests and plantations in the world at over 800 million hectares. Trees cover nearly half of the country. Illegal logging is a significant problem, particularly in the far east.
Russia introduced the Roundwood Act in 2013 to mandate the tracking of roundwood, including high-value species such as oak, beech and ash. The Act, however, does not regulate trade of other timber products such as sawnwood.
About 60% of South Korea is covered by forests. It has a low rate of deforestation and is one of the world’s largest importers of timber and wood-based products. A law on sustainable use of timber introduced in 2012 includes provisions relating to illegally logged timber. The government has not yet indicated how the law will be implemented.
The Act on the Sustainable Use of Timbers of May 2012 requires national and local government to 'carry out measures against the distribution and/or use of illegally logged timber domestically and internationally.' As of 2013, South Korea has also been building bilateral forest cooperation with 28 countries.
Forests cover about 31% of Switzerland. In 2010 the Swiss government brought into force a regulation requiring compulsory declarations for timber and timber products. Sellers of timber and timber products must provide transparent information about the type of timber and its origin. The Swiss government is currently drafting a regulation similar to the EU Timber Regulation.
Forests cover one-third of the land area of the United States. The domestic forestry industry is significant both for producing and processing timber. Nevertheless, the United States is still one of the main importers of timber and wood-based products in the world.
The United States government introduced the Lacey Act in 1900 to ban the transport of illegally captured animals or wildlife products across state lines or international borders. In 2008, the United States Congress passed an amendment to the Act, extending its scope to include timber, paper and other forest products. The amendment also sets out penalties for those found guilty of trading in illegal forest products.
The requirements of the Lacey Act are valid throughout the United States supply chain. It is illegal for anyone in the United States to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase illegally sourced forest products.
Regional and global initiatives
EU Timber Regulation
The EU Timber Regulation aims to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that illegal timber or timber products cannot be sold in the EU. It was created as part of the EU FLEGT Action Plan.
The EU Timber Regulation came into force on 3 March 2013. It prohibits the placing onto the EU market of illegally harvested timber and timber products derived from such timber. It requires operators who place timber or timber products on the market for the first time to exercise due diligence to make sure that timber and timber products are legal. To facilitate the traceability of timber and timber products, the EU Timber Regulation also requires traders who buy or sell timber products on the EU market to keep records of their suppliers and customers.
The EU Timber Regulation defines ‘legal' timber as timber produced in compliance with the laws of the country where it is harvested. The regulation covers a range of timber products, such as solid wood products, flooring, plywood, pulp and paper; products to which the regulation applies are listed in the annex.
Timber Regulation Enforcement Exchange
The Timber Regulation Enforcement Exchange (TREE) organises networking and information sharing meetings to ensure that global initiatives to combat the trade in illegal timber build on and learn from each other. TREE is facilitated by the non-profit association Forest Trends and the think tank Chatham House. These organisations work with officials from EU Member States and United States agencies responsible for enforcing the Lacey Act to understand the complex, high-risk supply chains for wood products, and to support coordinated implementation. Meetings bring together representatives from across the EU, United States and Australia.