Research Associate, Energy, Environment and Resources

The response by the French government, as well as increased sourcing of sustainably certified products by the private sector, is thought to have been a factor in the decline in imports of timber-sector products likely to be illegal.

A worker unloads timber in La Rochelle, western France, after Greenpeace activists climbed on cranes at the harbor to stop the Safmarine Sahara cargo ship from docking and wrote 'illegal timber' on its hull. Photo: XAVIER LEOTY / AFP / Getty Images.A worker unloads timber in La Rochelle, France. Photo by: Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses illegal logging and the associated trade. 

The French government has been engaged on the issue of illegal logging and the related trade: the government played an active part in the development of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and has been supporting the negotiation and implementation of voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) in producer countries.

The government has also been actively promoting the production and consumption of sustainable timber, providing funding for forest-management related projects in producer countries and establishing the National Group on Tropical Forests to facilitate a multi-stakeholder dialogue on forest policy. Media coverage of illegal logging has increased considerably since 2007, indicating greater awareness of the issue among the general public.

This response, as well as increased sourcing of sustainably certified products by the private sector, is thought to have been a factor in the decline in imports into France of timber-sector products likely to be illegal. The proportion of timber-sector imports at high risk of illegality is currently estimated to be two per cent. The proportion of highly processed products such as furniture has grown significantly, as has the share coming from China, with a parallel decline in imports of logs and sawnwood from central and West Africa.

However, there remain a number of areas for improvement by the government. In particular, with legislation now in place to implement the EUTR, this should be rigorously enforced and sufficient resources put in place to enable this. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the sanctions regime should be monitored. The planned review of the public procurement policy should be undertaken, and monitoring of its implementation should also be introduced.