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China holds international conference on "Forests, Markets, Policy & Practice" in Beijing

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China holds international conference on "Forests, Markets, Policy & Practice" in Beijing

September 09, 2010 - 02:58
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BEIJING, Sept. 9, 2010 (Press Release) -China is one of the important players in the global forestry market and has the potential to be a global leader in promoting the responsible trade of forest products. With this in mind, an international seminar entitled "Forests, Markets, Policy & Practice - China 2010" was held September 7-8 in Beijing. It was hosted by the Center for International Forest Product Trade of the State Forestry Administration of China (CINFT, SFA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with support from the International Forestry Cooperation Center of State Forest Administration of China (IFCC-SFA), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT) Programme and the European Forest Institute's FLEGT Asia Programme. The organizers include the Rainforest Alliance in partnership with The Forest Trust (TFT), and the World Wide Fund for Nature's Global Forest Trade Network (WWF GFTN).

The conference assembled some of the eminent experts and leaders in the area of wood legality and certification to work together to create a platform for businesses and industry associations to learn more about the practical application of responsible forest management and trade. The event updated stakeholders with the latest policy and market developments, and offered business solutions to help companies become leaders in improving forest management and trade practices in Asia Pacific, thereby reducing CO2 emissions and other negative impacts of deforestation and forest degradation.

The seminar occurred at a time when national policies of countries all along the supply chain are converging to support responsible forest products trade globally. Legality and sustainable management are increasingly becoming necessary and stringent requirements are being set for access to key markets.

Such trends are evident in both countries of resource origin and consumption. In the US, the passage of the 2008 Amendments to the Lacey Act has made it illegal to import, sell or trade in illegally harvested wood and wood products for the first time. In the European Union, an agreement was reached in July 2010 on a policy that will require companies to trace where their timber was harvested. The agreement is expected to come into effect in 2012. This complements the EU's bilateral efforts to source legal timber from main trading partners through voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs). Indonesia, a key supplier, is taking steps to protect its credibility as a source of responsible timber with the introduction of a Timber Legality Assurance System, to be rolled out this month, which will require accreditation of all companies supplying wood to international markets.

Such measures to fight illegal logging have combined to help protect up to 17 million hectares (42 million acres) of forest in recent years, according to a July 15, 2010 report by UK think-tank Chatham House. The report found a total of nearly 25% drop in the global production of illegal timber since 2002 (including a 75% drop in Indonesia).

At the same time, industry players are increasingly aware of the need for sustainable forestry and voluntary responsible sourcing practices. According to a recent study on Asian forest carbon markets by the Rainforest Alliance, corporate social responsibility has become a major driver of sustainable forest management, supply chain development and forest carbon projects, among other environmental and social activities in the forest products industry.

In China, the financial crisis and economic downturn have not slowed down the industry's growing demand for forest certification and corporate social responsibility. As of July 2010, China has become the Asian country with the most number of FSC-COC certificates, with over 1,300 certificates issued, compared to only 1 in 1998. PEFC is also growing rapidly in the country. The Chinese government is now developing its own national forest certification scheme and a number of Chinese forest products companies have started to take a proactive approach by incorporating an environmental dimension into their corporate mission statement and business practices.

While there are a host of tools available for businesses to better understand and meet the requirements of these policies, understand the market trends to help them comply with regulations and access to international markets, the number of existing different support programs is often found to be confusing for the stakeholders. To address the challenge, the Beijing seminar wrapping up today showcased several of these options, giving companies the chance to learn what is available and determine which options are most appropriate for their business.

Forests, Markets, Policy & Practice - China 2010 is not a one-off, stand-alone event. It built on the momentum of an event held in Shanghai in 2009, where over 400 business leaders, foresters, scholars, government officials and non-government organizations came together to discuss the latest trends in legal and certified forests and forest products in Asia Pacific.