A four-year investigation by the US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) uncovered evidence of an illegal timber trade stretching from Chinese-owned Dejia Group in West Africa to major hardware stores located across the USA.
The timber was from the okoumé tree, classed vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with a range limited to just four African countries. US Federal officials are investigating the importers, Evergreen Hardwoods and Cornerstone Forest Products. The Dejia Group also exports to European countries where the EU Timber Regulation is in force, including France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Greece.
- United States
- Chinese-owned Dejia Group
- Cornerstone Forest Products
- Evergreen Hardwoods
- hardware stores
- illegal timber trade
- IUCN Red List
- okoumé tree
- The Dejia Group
- Timber Regulation
- US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
- US Federal officials
A meeting between forestry representatives from Cameroon, Congo and China took place earlier this year, aimed at strengthening legality within the forestry sector and the international trade in timber. Participants agreed on the development of a forest control and verification system for timber from Cameroon and Congo heading to China; the need for capacity building based on a good knowledge of forest resources and monitoring tools; and the need to maintain ongoing co-operation and dialogue among stakeholders in Africa and China for more effective forest governance throughout the supply chain.
A new research published by the journal Conservation Letters studies the industrial palm oil plantations and regional greenhouse gas emissions levels. The paper summarizes the results of a case study focused on an oil palm operation in Gabon, and suggests that tropical African countries could largely offset the emissions created by converting the land to palm oil plantations if they enact mandatory policies regulation which forests can be cleared and how much remaining forest must be set aside for conservation. If those mandatory measures are lack, unsustainable levels of climate-warming carbon emissions could be created by converting Africa’s tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations.
A group of scientists questioned whether sustainable forest management (SFM) is an effective way as commonly believed to protect tropical forests and the habitat and carbon reserves. They published a study in the journal Land Use Policy arguing that SFM may not actually lead to less deforestation based on the their analysis of timber concessions in the Central African nation of the Republic of Congo. According to their research, timber concessions operating under forest management plans (FMPs) showed higher rates of deforestation than concessions without them. The research was criticized by some scientists as overly simplistic. One of the authors was hesitant to extend the findings beyond the borders of the Republic of Congo.
According to a newly released report from a non-profit organization called Forest Trends, in the past few years, imports of rosewood, collectively known as hongmu, from Africa surged, which are prized by Chinese furniture manufacturers who use them to make products that are highly coveted status symbols.
Over a dozen African countries to tackle Climate change and boost development by restoring 100m hectares of forest across the continent over the next 15 years. The initiative known as the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) was launched during COP21. It will be underpinned by a $1bn investment from the World Bank in 14 African countries over the next 15 years and by $600m of private sector investment over the same period.
The initiative will also be supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the World Resources Institute.
Scientists at UCL have defined three phases of global forest loss, the third of which we are living through now. They believe this third phase poses dangerous consequences if not correctly managed at a global scale. They believe the first phase happened over 6000 years ago when hunter-gatherers moved into tropical forests. The second phase saw the emergence of tropical agriculture. Despite altering the forest both of these phases maintained its overall health. The third phase – known as ‘Global Integration’ - has much greater impacts and is defined by distant decision-makers directing forest and agricultural land use. There have been positive moves, such as the UN’s New York Declaration of Forests agreeing to halt deforestation and restore 150 million hectares. But moves to expand the palm oil industry in to Africa are concerning and the study worries about the implications for the continent’s natural forests. The report calls for a renewed attention on forests at the Paris climate talks, where commitments to reduce deforestation and secure alternative finance are essential to success.
Liberia is to become the first African nation to stop cutting down trees in return for development aid. Liberia is the home to a significant part of West Africa’s remaining forest, with about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest, and it is also a global diversity hotspot, home to the last remaining viable populations of species. Illegal logging in Liberia stared from 2003 after the civil war ended, and some researchers have connected the outbreak of Ebola with the widespread deforestation, which brings people into contact with natural reservoir of the virus. Now Norway has reached agreement with Liberia government that Norway will help Liberia to build up the capacity to monitor and police the forests. With widespread corruption and a government struggling to impost its authority, it should be recognized that stopping all the logging in Liberia will not be easy.
A tree-by-tree battle between activists and timber workers more than three decades in Tasmania tore apart the Apple Isle. Finally, a historic peace deal came in 2012. Hodgman’s government removed 400,000 hectares of native forest from reserves, designing it “future potential production forest land” – available to be logged in six years’ time. The Hodgman government is also putting anti-protest laws aimed squarely at the environment movement. Plantations in Africa, south-east Asia and South America had come online and flooded the solid wood and woodchip markets with cheap, plentiful supply. Tasmania’s major green groups are plotting their next steps. The Hodgman government has created a ministerial council to advise on the future of the state’s forestry industry, without any environmentalist invited. The Hodgman government’s pro-logging drive makes the negotiations between environmentalists and the industry impossible.
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Sir Jonathon Porritt, a leading environmentalist and adviser to the Prince of Wales, has suggested that poor countries should be allowed to chop down half of their forests as long as the agreed to the preservation of those containing the greatest volume of carbon. As chairman of the palm oil industry-funded High Carbon Stock Study, Sir Jonathon’s suggestion comes in response to trying to determine which forests contain the most carbon and should therefore be protected because clearing would result in massive greenhouse gas emissions. Sir Jonathon told the Times “It’s trade-off time. You can’t develop a new palm oil business in West Africa if you don’t cut down a tree. So the real story now is what kind of deforestation is acceptable within an understanding of the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but secure real economic benefits for people in poor countries.” The following article by the Guardian Why zero deforestation is compatible with a reduction in poverty (8th September) explores the difficult choices that companies and countries have to make around the complex question of sustainability.
A new paper by Chatham House and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that timber harvested illegally in Africa, Asia and Latin America continues to be sold on world markets, despite international efforts to curb the trade. Experts say that the EUTR and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are complementary. However, there is a lack of coordination between the agencies involved in enforcing the rules of the two systems. One of the biggest loopholes identified is that both CITES- and FLEGT-licenced timber is exempt from the due diligence requirements under the EUTR, so fraudulent paperwork could escape scrutiny.
West Africa's biggest rainforest has won a reprieve from destruction with Liberia's government cancelling dozens of illegal logging permits, saving up to 10,000 square miles from being cleared. Earlier in the year the government had granted licences allowing companies to cut down 58 per cent of all the primary rainforest left in the country. The licences were handed out in breach of Liberia’s own law, generally to companies backed by Malaysian and Chinese investors. The case was first highlighted by Global Witness.
In response to the dramatic decline of forest cover in West Africa, 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have agreed to work together across borders to protect and manage the region’s forests and wildlife. The Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and use of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa was adopted alongside the Sub-regional Action Program to Combat Desertification at a meeting on 12 September 2013.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Global Forest Assessment 2010 reported that 870,000 ha of forests were lost in the sub-region each year between 2000 and 2010. The convergence plan notes that these losses were due primarily to illegal cutting, brush fires, extensive agriculture (farming over large areas of land with low productivity) and transhumance (moving livestock from one grazing area to another), as well as legal, political, technical and economic limitations.
BBC One's Panorama investigates illegal logging in the tropical forests of West Africa and the timber's journey as it makes its way to Western Europe.
‘Green Carbon, Black Trade’, a joint report from UNEP and INTERPOL says that $30-$100 billion of revenue are lost by key logging countries each year to the illegal timber trade. The losses are mainly attributed to key logging countries in Central Africa, the Amazon Basin and South East Asia. An editor of the report highlights how organised crime has become more sophisticated over the past decade with government websites hacked to extract logging permits, falsifying certificates and laundering timber by selling it through plantations.