Illegal logging is the harvesting of timber in contravention of the laws and regulations of the country of harvest. Illegal logging is a global problem with significant negative economic, environmental and social impact.
In economic terms illegal logging results in lost revenues and other foregone benefits. In environmental terms illegal logging is associated with deforestation, climate change and a loss of biodiversity. In social terms illegal logging can be linked to conflicts over land and resources, the disempowerment of local and indigenous communities, corruption and armed conflicts.
Illegal activities also undermine the efforts of responsible operators by making available cheaper but illegal timber and timber products in the market place.
The European Union's policy to fight illegal logging and associated trade was defined back in 2003 with the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The key regions and countries targeted in the FLEGT Action Plan, which together contain nearly 60% of the world’s forest and supply a large proportion of internationally traded timber, are Central Africa, Russia, Tropical South America and Southeast Asia. The FLEGT Action Plan covers both supply and demand side measures to address illegal logging, and was endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers in November 2003.
The FLEGT Action Plan has led to two key pieces of legislation:
However the EU response has not been limited to legislative measures. The EU has sought to increase demand for legal and sustainable timber and timber products by encouraging both private and public sector procurement policies that give preference to legally harvested timber and timber products.
In the public sector these form part of a broader effort to "green" public procurement policies. An increasing number of EU Member States are adopting green public procurement policies requiring timber and timber products to be from legal and sustainable sources. Countries implementing such policies include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands and the UK.
Many EU private sector timber trade and retail federations and companies have made commitments through Codes of Conduct to eliminate illegally harvested timber from their supply chains. In addition some banks have put in place policies to ensure their clients are not associated with illegal logging activities.
Capacity-building is an important element of the FLEGT Action Plan, particularly for developing countries. The Commission is working with the EU Member States to provide such capacity-building through its development cooperation instruments including support to NGOs and private sector actions.