Thursday, August 11, 2005

UK Government Makes "Clear Cut" Decision on Timber

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth slam Government's decision on sustainable timber

(London, 11th August 2005) A coalition of leading environmental NGOs, today, attacked the UK Government's decision to water down its standards for sustainable timber, by allowing government departments to buy wood from forest certification schemes that approve destructive logging practices.

In a joint statement, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace said the changes were a major set-back in the Government's efforts to only purchase timber from legal and well-managed forests.

The Government has decided to allow timber produced under the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) schemes to qualify for sustainable timber procurement.

Evidence shows the two schemes allow large scale, unsustainable logging in ancient forest areas, the destruction of endangered species habitat and the abuse of indigenous peoples' rights. The Government's acceptance of the PEFC scheme is conditional on the adoption of international criteria by all national schemes, and this will be reviewed in six months. But campaigners say that the scheme should not be accepted because even if they achieve this, their international criteria are still too weak.

Approval of the SFI is only applicable to a percentage based labelling scheme that is not yet in use. Nathan Argent, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner said, " This decision by the Government will rubber-stamp destructive logging practices that threaten the environment and do not take into consideration indigenous peoples' rights.

We urge both the public and private sector to clearly specify FSC on all contracts in order to guarantee that the timber they are using is from legal and sustainable sources ." Ed Matthew, Friends of the Earth's Forest Campaigner said, " The Government has come up with an ingenious method for persuading its critics that it only buys sustainable timber. They are officially recognising destructive logging as sustainable logging. Hey presto, all that horrible destructive timber that they buy has disappeared."

The announcement follows DEFRA's Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) re-assessment of the two schemes. Environmental groups have challenged the Government's conclusions and say the schemes cannot provide consumers with a credible assurance that the timber they buy comes from well-managed forests.

The assessment was strictly paper-based, did not address on the ground practices and does not include social criteria meant to address the rights of forest peoples. Previously only certification by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Canadian Standards Association was considered as proof of legal and sustainable sourcing by the UK government. The only scheme that is generally accepted by all stakeholders, including environment groups, as ensuring environmentally and socially responsible timber sourcing is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

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