China is now the world’s largest importer of tropical woods, consuming over half of the global supply. Much of this wood comes from the Paradise Forests of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea – where between 76 to 90% of the logging is illegal – as well as tropical forests of Africa.
Sharing the Blame
Greenpeace’s 2006 report Sharing the Blame exposed how endangered merbau and bintangor trees are illegally logged from the Paradise Forests in Southeast Asia and shipped to China. The trees are then made into furniture, hardwood flooring and plywood for sale within China or for export to North America, Europe, and other developed countries.
Particularly driving the demand is China’s booming construction businesses, as well as the home furnishings and renovations industry, which has an annual growth rate of 12%. New apartment complexes are rising all over China. Many people are buying first and second homes, as well as furniture and flooring for renovations.
The world’s forests cannot sustain China’s growing hunger for timber and wood products. It’s estimated that between 1996 and 2006 China’s consumption of wood products grew by 70% and was responsible for half of the increase in logging during that time.
Ancient Forests at Risk
In 2009, it was revealed that Madagascar’s rainforests and national parks were facing a dire illegal logging crisis, especially of endangered rosewood. Much of the illegal timber was shipped to China and Hong Kong, where they may be sold or re-exported to Europe. Rosewood is particularly valued for furniture and instruments. One of the most severely affected creatures is the lemur, found only in Madagascar, critically endangered by loss of habitat, poaching and hunting.
In Indonesia it is estimated that 76-80% of all logging is illegal; in the Brazilian Amazon it is 63%, and in the Congo, 50%.
In Papua New Guinea, home to some of the world’s most pristine forests, logging companies have already acquired 70 percent of the available forest resources. Human rights abuses, the displacement of native peoples, and environmental regulation breaches are common.
Repercussions of Illegal Logging
Income from illegal logging operations are often used to fund civil war, organized crime and money laundering, all of which result in a threat to international security. By reducing prices and eroding competitiveness, illegal logging also undermines legitimate companies that harvest timber sustainably.
The World Bank estimates that illegal logging in timber-producing countries results in an annual revenue loss of $10 to 15 billion US dollars, equivalent to a tenth of the total income from the global timber trade.
What is illegal logging?
Logging is illegal when the timber is harvested, processed, transported, brought or sold in violation of national laws.
Laws can be violated at many different stages of the supply chain such as:
- Obtaining logging concessions illegally (e.g. via corruption and bribery, or without lawful consent).
- Violating export bans.
- Cutting protected tree species or extracting them from a protected area.
- Taking out more trees than permitted, cutting down undersized or oversized trees, or logging outside a permitted area.
- Fraudulent declaration to customs of the amount or nature of timber present.
- Use of fraudulent documents to smuggle timber internationally.
Greenpeace is working on ending the illegal timber trade, but you can also do your part by buying only wood that comes from legal, sustainable sources and avoiding endangered species such as rosewood. Learn more about what you can do.