Bernard de Galembert, CEPI’s Forest and Innovation Director
PPI: Where does this Timber Regulation come from?
Back in 2002, awareness that illegally logged wood was sold and used in Europe grew rapidly in Europe. The first response of the European Institutions was the FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan that was listing a series of actions aiming at curbing down illegal logging. Among these possible actions, the negotiations of bilateral agreements with timber producing and exporting countries - the so-called Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) -, the adaptation of public procurement policies, the better use of existing instruments (like the CITES Convention or the EU measures against money laundering), capacity building and development aid for the producing countries, private sector voluntary initiatives, etc. Later, the EU felt the need to develop a legislative proposal with a views to "minimize the risk" of placing illegally logged timber on the EU market. The idea of the Regulation was born.
Which organizations should be concerned with this Regulation?
The Regulation requires anyone who supplies or sells timber or a processed timber products for the first time on the EU market to carry out a due diligence, assess the potential risks related to the products (origin, species, etc.) and, if needed, mitigate the risks. Still any subsequent user of the wood or wood products, once it has been placed on the market, must provide basic information on his supplier and his buyer.
What does it mean for the European pulp and paper industry? Will it pose an extra burden?
In many cases, the industry's obligations to comply with the Regulation will be limited, either because the industry is not an "operator" as defined by the Regulation, i.e. the industry is not placing timber for the first time on the market, or because the requirements of the Regulation are already part of the procurement policy in place in the company and would therefore not create any additional burden. Still, some caution will have to be exercised, in particular with supplies coming from "high risk" countries/regions (e.g. Indonesia). Nevertheless, some companies will have to adapt their sourcing policy to be fully compliant with the legislation.
What did CEPI to do help the organizations covered by the Regulation?
CEPI created a simple decision tree, that can be followed as a video, pausing where necessary, to check whether one needs to exercise ‘due diligence' or not and how to do it. The decision tree brings the issue down to a simple matrix, making it easy for any user of paper or wood products to determine their obligations in this EU Timber Regulation. All information about the CEPI work as well as the decision tree can be found at www.cepi.org/EUtimber
How does it compare or relate to certification of timber and timber products?
Forest certification is a voluntary market driven instrument to provide assurance that the wood comes from responsibly managed forests. As such, the purpose of certification is to provide evidence of sustainable forest management. Of course, being sustainable implies abiding by the legislation. But, by its own nature, certification can only be one among many other tools to deliver assurance of legality. Currently, both PEFC and FSC are adapting their systems to ensure better compatibility between the certification systems and the provisions of the Regulation. But the role of certification is limited by the legislator himself to one among other ways to assess the risks and possibly mitigate it. It remains with the "operator" to decide whether a forest certificate is enough to guarantee legality and compliance with the Regulation. CEPI has repeatedly deplored the absence of any real recognition for forest certification in the Regulation.
Are similar measures in place elsewhere in the world?
Around the world, other regions have policies in place or under development. In the US, the Lacey Act, which was initially addressing illegal trade of endangered species, was extended to plants, hence to trees and timber. The US system is different from the European one as it is based on a self-declaration by the operator. Evidence of legality must only be delivered if a concern/suspicion is expressed. Gibson, the famous guitar brand, is among the very first to experience a legal case for infringing the Lacey Act. In the other hemisphere, Australia is currently drafting a bill aiming to stop illegal logging and trade of timber. The system would include the need to exercise due diligence.
When does the EU Timber Regulation come into force?
The Regulation is planned to come into force in March 2013, however, a guidance document clarifying some details in the Regulation is still expected to be published by the European Commission beforehand. CEPI will keep the industry informed about that.