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Brussels, 17 October 2008

Environment: Commission unveils package to tackle illegal logging and deforestation

The European Commission today unveiled two important initiatives to protect forests globally. The package comprises a legislative proposal to reduce the risk of illegal timber and timber products entering the EU market and a Communication setting out the Commission's proposals for tackling tropical deforestation. Illegal logging and deforestation have serious environmental implications, contributing to climate change and the loss of biodiversity, as well as threatening the livelihood of indigenous people. Illegal logging is also a symptom of wider problems, including a lack of forest governance, and weak law enforcement. In the context of the international negotiations on the post-2012 climate change agreement, the Commission proposes to pursue the objective of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50% by 2020.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Forests are home to half of all known species. When forests disappear, so does a vast array of plants and species, with disastrous and irreversible consequences. These precious resources also play a vital role in regulating climate change. Developed and developing nations must unite to protect the world's remaining forests. We must also send a firm message to timber suppliers that illegal timber or timber products will not be tolerated on the EU market."

The two parts of the forest package are as follows:

Proposed legislation on illegal logging

Illegal logging is the harvest, transportation, sale or purchase of timber in violation of applicable national laws. A significant proportion – around 19% – of timber imports into the EU is thought to come from illegal sources.

Illegal logging is a substantial and growing problem with serious environmental implications including the loss of biodiversity, deforestation and forest degradation. It is part of a larger problem that includes issues of forest governance and law enforcement, and also has economic and social consequences.

The European Commission is proposing a regulation to minimise the risk of illegally harvested timber and timber products being placed on the European market. The proposed regulation will make it an obligation for traders to seek sufficient guarantees that the timber and timber products they sell have been harvested according to the relevant laws of the country of origin.

This will send a strong message to operators wanting to access the EU market. The proposal will increase incentives for legal and sustainable management and use of forests, especially in developing countries that are interested in maintaining and enhancing their export of forest products to the EU.

Communication on Deforestation

Forests are currently disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year. Deforestation is responsible for almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and has become a key issue in the international negotiations currently under way on a new UN climate change agreement for the post-2012 period.

The Commission proposes to work in the international negotiations on climate change towards the development of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism through which developing countries would be rewarded for emissions reductions achieved by taking action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

The Communication indicates that at EU level an appropriate level of funding is required from 2013 to 2020 to fight deforestation. The total amount of funding will depend on the level of mitigation actions undertaken by developing countries.

A major part of this funding could come from proceeds of allowances auctioned in the EU Emissions Trading System. It is estimated that if 5% of auctioning revenue were made available to the Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM), this would raise €1.5 to 2.5 billion in 2020. In the framework of the GFCM, a pilot phase could be envisaged to test the inclusion of 'deforestation credits' (credits for avoided deforestation) in the carbon markets, allowing governments to make use of these credits to help achieve their post-2012 emission reduction target. Subject to the review of this initial phase, allowing companies to use deforestation credits to offset part of their emissions could be considered after 2020.

The Communication also highlights the need to reinforce other forest–related policies, as well as policies which can directly or indirectly reduce deforestation, in the fields of trade, energy, agriculture, food security and development cooperation.

The proposals in the Communication should form part of the EU's position at the UN climate conference in Poznan in December and in the negotiations on a new climate agreement that is due to be concluded in December 2009 in Copenhagen.

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