Greenpeace investigations reveal China's pivotal role in laundering illegal timber

Press release - 28 March, 2006
China is central to the laundering of illegal timber from some of the world's most endangered forests, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace. The trade is driven by domestic and international demand in the USA, Europe, Japan and other developed countries.

An aerial view of forest destruction near Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park. Indonesia has already lost about 65 percent of its ancient forests. Here, illegal logging and corruption within the logging industry remains widespread. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of raw timber supplying the country's wood processing industry is logged illegally.

'Sharingthe Blame: Global Consumption and China's Role in Ancient Forest Destruction'(1), documents illegally logged timber, particularly from the Paradise Forestsof Asia Pacific (2), being shipped to China. There, it is made into furniture,flooring and plywood for domestic consumption and for export to satisfy therising, global demand for inexpensive wood products.

Chinais now the world's largest importer of tropical woods: half of all tropicaltrees logged globally end up in China. Much of this wood comes from Indonesiaand Papua New Guinea where between 76 to 90 per cent of the logging is illegal.

"Illegallogging is rampant in many of the countries that supply China with wood andthis destructive trade is fueling the global forest crisis," said Sze PangCheung, deputy campaign director for Greenpeace China. "China hascommitted internationally to tackle this problem and must, together with allcountries that import these wood products, take urgent concrete action to banthe trade in timber from illegal or destructive logging."

Thereport applauds some international buyers for starting to address the issue ofillegal logging.  Recently, numerouscompanies in Europe have committed to stop purchasing Chinese plywood made fromillegally logged timber from Papua New Guinea. These include Wolseley (UK),PontMeyer (Netherlands), Castorama (France) and the French Federation of TimberImporters (Le Commerce du Bois).

However,the report concludes that the world's forests cannot sustain currentconsumption patterns in developed countries and China's escalating demand.China's hunger for wood is already driving more trees to be felled.

In thelast 10 years alone, China's total consumption of wood products increased by70%. A third of this was due to increase in exports of wood products and 66% toincreases in domestic consumption. Greenpeace warns that if China were toincrease its per capita paper consumption to that of the USA, for example, thiswould require nearly 1.6 billion additional cubic metres of wood to be logged -equivalent to the Earth's entire yearly harvest.

Today,it is North America, Europe, Japan and other developed countries that consumemore ancient forests than anyone else.

"There'smassive over-consumption of wood products in developed regions such as NorthAmerica and Europe," said Tamara Stark, international advisor toGreenpeace China. "If the world's ancient forests are to survive,consumption levels in these countries has to drop dramatically."

Thismonth, China acknowledged that the environmental impact of consumption is aserious issue, with Premier, Wen Jiabao's, call to the country to reduceconsumption of wood. Just last week, the Chinese Government announced a 5%consumption tax on hardwood flooring and disposable chopsticks.

"It'spositive that China is taking steps to address wasteful consumption of woodproducts, but the scale pf the problem warrants nothing less than a new visionof development," said Sze Pang Cheung.

Greenpeaceis urging China and the other 187 signatory nations to the United NationsConvention on Biological Diversity (CBD), meeting in Curitiba, Brazil thisweek, to protect the world's last ancient forests up by establishing a globalnetwork of protected forest areas, to ban the trade in illegally anddestructively logged wood products and to introduce a legally binding mechanismunder the CBD to combat illegal and destructive logging.

Greenpeaceis an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creativeconfrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutionsessential to a green and peaceful future. It is committed to protecting theworld's last ancient forests and the people and animals that depend upon them.


Other contacts: Sarah Liang, Greenpeace International Communications, based in Beijing (m) + 8613911152514

VVPR info: Images of the Paradise Forest and video footage of the trade in illegally and destructively logged timber are available on request.

Notes: (1) read the new report on: The Paradise Forests stretch from South East Asia, across the islands of Indonesia and on towards Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.

Exp. contact date: 2007-03-28 00:00:00