Sam Lawson
(Former Chatham House Expert)

Over the last two years, Chatham House has carried out an in-depth study of the response to illegal logging and related trade in twelve producer, processing and consumer countries. Our findings demonstrate that actions taken by governments, civil society and the private sector over the last ten years 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, we estimate that up to 17 million hectares of forest have been protected from degradation and at least 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided. Alternatively, if the trees saved were legally logged this could bring in US$6.5 billion in additional revenues to the countries concerned - twice what the world gives in aid for primary education each year.

Though the response and the impacts have been impressive, illegal logging remains a major problem in all of the countries we looked at and elsewhere. Lined up, the illegal logs which are still being produced each year would stretch ten times around the planet. Existing gains need to be entrenched, and further efforts are required. In particular, reducing illegal logging further will require a more comprehensive overhaul of government policy and regulation in producer countries than has occurred so far.

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 also 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.

Read Report:

Illegal Logging and Related Trade: Indicators of the Global Response
Programme Report
Sam Lawson and Larry MacFaul, July 2010