Update on the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy
Close to 20% of carbon dioxide emissions are caused by deforestation, and curbing this is a highly cost effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Stern report, 2006). Illegal logging is a major contributor to the global problem of deforestation. Tackling illegal logging and the associated trade is a very complex issue that is often linked with failures of governance. As the 4th largest net importer of timber and timber products, the UK Government has in the past taken a range of actions to address this issue.
Procurement is among others, one way of using market forces to achieve an incentive towards more sustainable behaviour. On 1 April 2009, the UK Government’s timber procurement policy changed and moved towards sustainable timber as a minimum. It now requires that only timber and wood derived products originating from either ‘legal and sustainable’ sources or from a licensed FLEGT partner or equivalent, will be demanded for use on the Government estate. This policy is mandatory for all Central Government Departments, their Executives Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies. Autonomous organisations that receive public funding are also encouraged to adopt this policy. The Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement (CPET) supports Defra in implementing this policy, by providing support to public buyers and their suppliers, free of charge, through training, a helpline, and a website.
The European Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan aims to address illegal logging in tropical timber producer countries. It contributes to achieving the wider objective of sustainable forest management and promotes good governance in the forestry sector including through using the EU public sector’s buying power to stimulate the international markets for legal timber. Key features of the Plan are the bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). VPAs are signed with the aim of ensuring that specific timber products exported to the EU from the partner countries have been legally produced. The first VPA was signed with Ghana in September 2008 and five other countries are currently negotiating agreements. Further guidance on FLEGT-licensed timber will be available on the CPET website as it becomes available.
This year, CPET together with WWF-UK and the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) will also focus particularly on Local Authorities who account for the purchase of between 20 and 30% of the timber products in the UK. It is hoped that, if the public sector as a whole is requesting sustainable timber, it will send an even stronger message to the timber product markets and that it will be easier for suppliers to comply with a more harmonised set of criteria.