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Sustainable forests and illegal logging

Image showing a man chopping down a tree20 per cent of global emissions are due to deforestation in some way - illegal logging, forest conversion to agricultural use and unsustainable timber production are the main factors (Source: Stern Review on the economics of climate change).

Find out on this page how the UK helps support sustainable forests.

Facts and Figures
  • forests cover approximately 30 per cent of the earth’s land surface
  • forests are a major carbon reservoir and sink that regulate the global climate
  • forests are home to 80 per cent of the world’s remaining terrestrial biodiversity
  • forests have effectively disappeared in 25 countries
  • another 29 countries have lost more than 90 per cent of their forest cover
  • deforestation continues at an alarming rate with the loss of some 13 million hectares (130,000 km2) a year
How the UK is supporting producer countries

Most of the world’s endangered forests grow in relatively poor tropical and sub-tropical countries that have to weigh the cost of good forest management against the pull of economic growth. As a result, there is a scarcity of tropical/sub-tropical timber verified as sustainably produced.

There needs to be an incentive to improve tropical forest management. Simply refusing to purchase timber that is not verified would drive them to trade with unscrupulous customers. The Government, therefore, does not insist on all timber supplied being verified as sustainably produced. Instead, suppliers bidding for government contracts are informed that tenders offering sustainably produced timber will be given preference.  

Why does verifiably legal and/or sustainable timber cost a premium?

Verifying timber as legal is no simple matter. Some of the factors that are taken into account when verifying the timber are;

  • logs from many forests pass into saw mills and the mixed outputs often pass into other processing plants where further mixing occurs.
  • timber products are mixed with other batches of products for shipment and are further mixed on import in timber yards before further processing or sale for end use.
  • managing forests sustainably requires producers to reach standards that often go well beyond legal compliance and will include protection and conservation measures

Verifying these ‘links in the chain’ add significant costs to the end product.

Page last modified: 23 October 2008
Page published: 23 October 2008