Illegal logging and associated trade in illegally sourced wood products are important causes of deforestation and forest degradation in many developing countries. Forest destruction in turn contributes up to 20 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Illegal logging also robs cash-strapped governments of vital revenues, has a devastating impact on the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, and fosters corruption and conflict.
This in-depth study of twelve producer, processing and consumer countries demonstrates that actions taken by governments, civil society and the private sector over the last ten years in response to illegal logging and related trade have been extensive and had a considerable impact.
Illegal logging is estimated to have fallen by between 50 and 75 per cent during the last decade in Cameroon, the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesia, while imports of illegally sourced wood to the seven consumer and processing countries studied are down 30 per cent from their peak in 2004.
As a result up to 17 million hectares of forest are estimated to have been protected from degradation and at least 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided over the last decade. Alternatively, if the trees saved were legally logged this could bring in US$6.5 billion in additional revenues to the countries concerned.
Reducing illegal logging further will require a comprehensive overhaul of government policy and regulation in producer countries. Japan and China must also follow in the footsteps of the US and EU and prohibit the import and sale of illegally sourced wood. To ensure such prohibitions are effective and encourage broader improvements, importing countries also need to expand cooperation with source countries along the lines of the EU's voluntary partnership agreements.
It is essential that initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries reinforce the existing response to illegal logging and poor forest governance, rather than distract from it.