Greenpeace highlights forest crimes in Europe

Press release - 4 June, 2003
In London today, Greenpeace volunteers occupied the construction site of the new Home Office Headquarters to highlight UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's breach of commitment to using timber from legal and sustainable sources. The site was declared an ancient forest crime scene. Eleven Greenpeace climbers occupied four huge cranes on the site and hung banners saying Rainforest Demolition Site .

Greenpeace volunteers shut down the site of the new Home Office HQ at 2 Marsham St, Westminster, and declared it an ancient forest crime scene.

This action follows a Greenpeace investigation, which documented Government contractors using illegal and destructively logged plywood from Indonesia's last remaining rainforests. The plywood - used for the site hoardings and to hold wet concrete in place while it sets - has been supplied by timber barons notorious for illegal logging, environmental destruction, corruption and human rights abuses (1).

This directly contravenes commitments by both UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Environment Minister Michael Meacher to only use timber from legal and sustainable sources on government projects, such as those in dependently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) (2). Only last month, Meacher confirmed that Government procurement policy on timber applies to all wood and products made from wood used in performing government contracts. That includes the wood used temporarily during construction works as well as wood fixed as part of a finished structure (3).

Greenpeace is now calling on the EU Commission to strengthen its action plan to tackle illegal logging and commit to:

- Immediate legislation to ban illegal timber imports, placing the burden of proof upon timber importers to demonstrate timber is legally obtained. Such legislation must be demanded by all member states.

- Implementing timber procurement policies for EU funded projects and insisting that member states take corresponding action.

- Binding minimum social and environmental standards for Export Credit Agencies.

"The wanton destruction of the world's rainforests is fuelled by demand across the EU for cheap timber. Illegal timber continues to flood the market place and incredibly no laws exist to stop it," said Andy Tait, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner.

In Nordenham, Germany, thirty Greenpeace activists protested against the destruction of the last African ancient forests at the saw mill of the company "Rhenus Midgard" in Nordenham-Blexen (state of Niedersachsen) early this morning. The environmentalists painted the trees with white crosses and the text "Stop ancient forest destruction". Banners branded the area as the "Forest graveyard Midgard-Blexen". Rhenus Midgard also manages the private harbour in Nordenham, the biggest German import harbour for timber from Africa.

Every two seconds, an ancient forest area the size of a football pitch is being degraded or destroyed. Greenpeace is campaigning to protect the world s remaining ancient forests by promoting ecologically sustainable and social responsible forest use and the establishment of protected areas. Protected forest areas are dedicated to the conservation of their biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and are established and managed respecting traditional land rights particularly those of indigenous peoples. They are protected from road building and industrial activities.

VVPR info: For photographs of both actions please contact +31 653 81 91 21

Notes: (1) The full report Partners in crime: a Greenpeace investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia's timber barons can be found at FSC® certification ensures that timber products come from socially and environmentally responsible forest management.(3) From response to written question from Joan Walley, UK Labour MP for Stoke on Trent North, 8 May 2003.