Briefing Paper

Duncan Brack and Jon Buckrell
  • Consumer countries contribute to the problems of illegal logging by importing timber and wood products without ensuring that they are legally sourced. Over the last few years, however, they have taken a series of measures to try to ensure that they exclude illegal timber products from their markets.
  • The bilateral voluntary partnership agreements negotiated between the EU and timber-producing countries, which will establish a licensing scheme for legal timber, offer potentially effective controls coupled with support to tackle underlying governance failure, but will be slow to establish and will not cover the entire trade.
  • Broader measures to exclude illegal timber lack some of the benefits of this approach but can be implemented more quickly and with greater coverage. The extension of the Lacey Act to timber in 2008 provided the US with an effective means of encouraging the timber industry to exercise 'due care' and preventing imports of illegal timber.
  • The EU's 2010 timber regulation is expected to have a similar impact, combining a prohibition against first placement of illegally harvested timber on the market with specification of due diligence requirements to minimize the risk of such placement.
  • Procurement policies requiring government bodies to purchase only legal (and, usually, sustainable) timber can prove very effective in excluding illegal timber from segments of a consumer country's market.
  • All these developments will encourage the spread of the voluntary certification and legality verification schemes, but at the same time are likely to expose them to increasing pressures, for example from fraud.

Project on Control of Illegal Logging and International Trade in Illegally Logged Timber >>