European Union (EU) forests have continued to expand during the last 60 years at a rate of 0.3% per year and currently account for more than 36 percent of EU land area. The EU focuses attention on the function that forests serve to the environment, such as protecting biodiversity, mitigating the effect of climate change, and serving as a source of renewable energy, and is developing policies accordingly. Forestry management policies are not harmonized at the EU level, so the Member States (MS) have the authority for setting policies on how forests are managed in the EU. However, forests are affected by a broad array of EU policies and initiatives rooted in policies on other sectors such as EU Biodiversity strategy, Rural Development, and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). A policy for sustainable biomass and biofuels will be included when a new Renewable Energy Package is proposed in 2016-2017.
An additional policy that promotes forest sustainability is the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), Regulation (EU) No 995/2010. The Regulation was adopted in 2010 and entered into application in March 2013, banning illegal use of timber in certain areas and requiring operators who place timber and timber products on the market to trace these products to the country and location in which the wood was originally harvested. The intent of the regulation is to deter illegal harvesting of timber in the country of harvest, according to national legislation.
Specifically, the EUTR has the following objectives:
- Prohibits placing illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber on the EU market.
- Requires that EU traders who place timber products on the EU market must exercise due diligence by undertaking a risk management exercise to minimize the risk of placing illegal timber or timber products on the market. This includes possessing information on the source of the product, and ensuring that it is in compliance with the national legislation of the country of harvest, assessing the risk that illegal timber is in the supply chain, and reducing the risk of purchasing illegal timber products by requiring additional information and verification from suppliers.
- Obligates all traders of timber products to keep records of their suppliers and customers.
The EUTR covers both imported and domestically produced goods, including timber, solid wood products, flooring, plywood, pulp, and paper. Printed materials such as books and newspapers, as well as recycled materials are exempt; however, the EU has reserved the right to revisit the list of covered products if necessary.
In December 2015, the European Parliament and Council will review the EUTR. On August 13, 2015, the EC reported contributions from a public consultation on the evaluation of the EUTR, to aid in the review process. The consultation assessed the functioning and effectiveness of the EUTR and in particular, included an evaluation of the following:
- The administrative impacts on small and medium enterprises of assessing and mitigating risks that the timber in their supply chain has been logged illegally;
- The timber products included in the scope of the EUTR;
- The ‘prohibition requirement’ – preventing operators placing illegally logged timber or timber products on the EU market;
- The ‘due diligence requirement’ – requiring operators to actively assess, and where necessary, take steps to mitigate, the risk that timber has been logged illegally.
While the EUTR includes timber products from all over the world, there is another EU initiative, the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) which calls for the Commission to negotiate Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VAP) with countries experiencing illegal logging. The FLEGT regulation was adopted in 2005. As soon as a country has negotiated a partnership with the EU, the legislation enters into force for that specific country. Once these VAPs have been signed, all EU imports from these countries must have a certificate stating that the timber has been legally logged. The VAPs are based on legislation in the producer countries so criteria can differ. The EU has signed VAPs with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, and the Republic of Congo, and negotiations are ongoing with Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.