Facing up to illegal forest destruction

Feature story - July 3, 2008
Illegal logging often happens in far-off places that are all too easily ignored. That's why we have brought the problem to the heart of Europe - with a 12-metre Amazon tree trunk placed in Brussels to highlight the role of Europe in fuelling the destruction of the world's rainforests.

Activists take the message "Ban illegal timber" to the EU Commission Headquarters.

Acclaimed Brazilian artist Siron Franco has installed nine video monitors into the trunk of an Amazon tree that comes from an area in Brazil where illegal logging is rampant. The tree has been placed outside the European Commission's headquarters and contrasts images of the natural beauty of the rainforest with the ongoing destruction caused by illegal logging.

The installation is part of our ongoing campaign to force the EU to introduce a new timber law. This would see a long overdue ban on illegal timber being sold in the EU.

EU Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, and other EU politicians are planning to visit the tree, where our activists will present them with a plywood postcard reading: 'Stop the chainsaw massacre! Adopt EU timber law now' to remind them why it is vital to protect the world's last remaining rainforests.

At the moment, Europe buys millions of tonnes of timber from areas such as the Amazon, South East Asia and the Congo, where illegal and destructive logging is rampant. As a result, customers in Europe, buying products like garden furniture, paper tissues, and construction materials, are unwitting accomplices in the destruction of the world's forests.

For the last five years, the EU has been promising to introduce new laws against illegally harvested timber, but those companies profiteering from illegal logging have been obstructing the efforts being made by the European Commission. However, on July 23, the European Commission will finally vote on whether to adopt a new law.

The fact is that the European Commission hasn't got much choice if it is serious about tackling climate change. We urgently need to stop destroying the world's forests. Practices such as illegal and destructive logging drive deforestation, which in turns leads to the dramatic loss of species and accounts for one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, our supporters have been instrumental in making sure that the issue hasn't fallen off of the Commission's agenda. Since June 17, over 65,000 letters have been sent to the EU President, José Manuel Barroso. Progressive companies working in the timber industry have also been pushing for the new law - they are suffering at the hands of rogue businesses involved in illegal and destructive logging who undercut prices, make sustainable wood less competitive and harm the industry as a whole.

The EU already has strict controls on illegal music, software and films. It's high time timber stolen from the world's last rainforests was just as strictly controlled as pirate CDs.

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