Japanese police are investigating a possible human trafficking operation after arresting 11 Chinese construction workers at a solar power plant over visa violations and finding another 46 have fled. The case comes as Japan faceslabour shortages owing to an ageing population and political discussions are now considering legislation to allow more foreign workers.
In order to help consumers make informed choices for safer products while increasing pressure to substitute substances of concern, ECHA is going to establish a new database on the presence of hazardous chemicals in articles by the end of 2019 for waste treatment operators and consumers. The database will comprise information submitted by companies producing, importing or selling articles that contain Candidate List substances. Companies need to submit this information by the end of 2020. The work is based on the revised waste framework directive that entered into force in July 2018. It is part of the EU’s waste legislation package, contributing to the EU's circular economy policy.
Earlier this year Vietnam initialled a timber trade agreement with the EU that will see Vietnam implement legislation to address imports of illegally harvested and traded timber in return for timber exports to the EU. According to a recent EIA investigation, Vietnam continues its role as a serial offender in the illegal timber trade, with large volumes of illegal timber still flowing across the Cambodian border unhindered. EIA have identified three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations continue. EIA tracked timber from these sites is being smuggled out of Cambodia and into Vietnam across informal crossings.
Ukraine has adopted legislation aimed at harmonising its toy safety regulation with that of the European Union. Cabinet ministers approved the new Technical Regulation on the Safety of Toys in February. It becomes effective on 21 September. The law establishes requirements on the safety of toys and their placement on the market, and defines the obligations of manufacturers, importers and distributors. It replaces the existing regulation, which was approved in 2013 and took into account the EU's 2009 Toy Safety Directive. The EU has subsequently made a number of amendments to its legislation. Ukraine's latest regulation slightly diverges from the EU Directive, in that it applies to products that have been developed or intended for children up to 14 years of age.
China’s National Consumer Product Safety Commission has recently consulted on a draft list of substance restrictions in consumer products. The list combines a number of existing Chinese standards and, where no domestic standard exists, it refers to restrictions based on EU and other foreign legislation. The draft is similar to the consumer restrictions set out in REACH Annex XVII - includes 103 chemicals and proposes limit values for their use in consumer products, such as toys, textiles, coatings, paints, decoration materials and furniture.
The UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has just published its Human Rights and Business 2017 report calling for “stronger legislation, stronger enforcement and clearer routes to justice” to protect workers’ human rights. ETI gave written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for the report – and helped facilitate the committee’s visits to Turkish and Leicester garment supply chains, which were used as case studies.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has been documenting and exposing the illicit trade in stolen timber in Indonesia for more than 15 years. According to a new EIA report, it’s all a huge illusion that Indonesia appears to bring rainforest logging under control. Traditional logging has been replaced by the mass clearance of rainforest for oil palm plantations, creating massive supplies of hugely profitable but often illegal timber. And lurking beneath the surface is a pervasive network of criminality and corruption. NGOs and progressive government figures have emphasised the need to look beyond sectoral legislation and to corruption laws in order to address this.
British businesses from the high street and timber, construction, publishing, DIY and grocery industries are among the first UK firms committing to responsible forest trade to help end deforestation around the world with a shift to 100 per cent sustainable timber and wood products by 2020. The existing loopholes in the current legislation to combat illegal timber means some industries are exempt from ensuring that their wood or products have come from legal sources. In 2015 the timber regulation is due to be reviewed and WWF and its campaign supporters are calling on the UK government to demand the EU makes the necessary improvements to the regulation to ensure that all timber products are covered and thus end the import of illegal wood.
WWF is urging the European Commission to use the results of the recent surveys on implementation of the EU Timber Regulations to put more pressure on national governments and take legal action against non-compliant countries. WWF’s EU Government barometer shows that only 11 EU countries have so far adopted national legislation and procedures considered robust enough to control the legality of timber and timber products, thus leaving 17 without robust legislation. The most recent EU survey on implementation highlights Hungary, Poland, Spain, Malta, France, Greece and Italy as being among the countries failing to fully implement the regulations.
A recent study in Nature Climate Change suggests that the rate of Deforestation in Indonesia is twice what is reported by the Government and that the Government’s 2011 regulations to combat deforestation have been largely ineffective. The report cites a Science report on the disparity between deforestation rates reported by the Indonesian government and the rate of deforestation calculated from satellite data. Green groups lobbying against palm oil deforestation and tropical forest loss claim the findings strengthen the argument that the Indonesian Government’s anti-deforestation legislation needs strengthening.
The Indonesian Forest Ministry has defended the new Law on Preventing and Eradicating Forest Destruction which passed early in July. Critics point out that the new law does not mention forest fires, cuts the prescribed punishments for certain forestry crimes, and excludes mention of the protection of indigenous groups with ancestral claims and the regulation of forest boundaries. In response, proponents of the law say that it will target large-scale operators and bureaucrats who fail to uphold the law, in addition to introducing harsher deterrence methods and allowing for better coordination between law enforcement agencies.
Short opinion piece on the major themes that were discussed at a recent Forest Legality Alliance meeting in Washington DC between members and experts involved in the harvest, manufacturing and trade of forest products. Illegal logging rates worldwide have declined by about 20 per cent since 2008. The main drivers indicating a shift were deemed to be that legality requirements are now in the mainstream (already in the US, EU and Australia and they are being explored in China and Japan), proactive companies are taking control of their supply chains, and the introduction of public procurement policies in some of the world’s major cities, in particular in Latin America, that require the sourcing of legal timber products.
MPs and policymakers from 33 of the world’s major economies gathered at the first GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit in London. The Summit concluded with a pledge which recognises that forest loss contributes approximately 17 per cent of GHG emissions each year and commits the legislators to promote and advance the REDD+ mechanism in their own countries. REDD+ offers forest nations access to new finance in return for the development of effective and independently assessed forest protection schemes.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has published a report accusing China, the world’s biggest importer and consumer of timber, of fuelling the trade in illegal timber with at least a tenth of imports coming from illegal sources. Over 75 per cent of China’s timber imports are processed for domestic consumer markets and are not affected by legislation in the US and EU. The EIA urges China to bring in similar legislation to ensure real progress in curbing the trade in illegal logging.
Brazil’s President has signed the new Forest Code into law. The Code dictates how much of their forest farmers and companies must leave intact. However, critics counter that it reduces the actual amount of forest preserved by extending the scope to river margins and steep hillsides. To comply with the Code some landowners who have previously cleared land in excess of the new limits will have to reforest an area of land totalling the size of Italy. Whether enforcement will be effective and successful is open to question. The main tool to support compliance will be a registry to which landowners must detail their compliance with the Code to remain eligible for state credit and support. The farm lobby says it may challenge the final version of the Code in court.
Analysis reflecting on the global state of illegal logging and the importance of Australia joining the EU and the US in implementing anti-illegal logging measures through its own Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill. It draws attention to the flood of illegal timber which is exported to Australia from South East Asia and the difficulty legitimate timber producers in Australia and New Zealand have in competing domestically and internationally.
The US House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill called the RELIEF Act (The Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Fairness Enforcement Act) which would significantly weaken the use of the Lacey Act to regulate against illegal logging by allowing manufacturers to keep illegal wood and limiting the species and country declaration requirements to solid wood (i.e. pulp and paper would be excluded). The article points to World Bank estimates which suggest that government and businesses suffer more than $10 billion in lost revenue each year due to illegal logging, $1 billion of which is lost by the US.
Environmental groups have welcomed President Rousseff’s veto of key articles of the legislation, but warned that it remains to be seen how effective enforcement of the new law will be. The veto was on key articles which would have reduced requirements upon landowners to maintain forest cover, lifted restrictions on forest clearance near rivers and given an amnesty to landowners who had carried out deforestation prior to 2008 – an article which the Union of Concerned Scientists warned would have set a dangerous precedent encouraging landowners to continue with forest clearance on the assumption that further amnesties would follow in the years to come.
In response to the impending passing into law of Brazil’s Forest Code (see previous story) Greenpeace is campaigning for a veto against the legislation, claiming that it could lead to deforestation of 22 million hectares of rainforest (an area nearly equivalent to the size of the UK). Also, in response to the legislation, 130,000 Brazilian citizens backed by a number of Brazilian celebrities have signed a citizen’s initiative launched by Greenpeace Brazil for a new Zero Deforestation law to protect the rainforest.