Greenpeace highlights illegal logging as EU prepares to vote on new laws

Press release - 3 September, 2008
Activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have today stopped the loading of timber, from a logging concession riddled with illegalities, onto the log ship Harbour Gemini in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The timber was bound for China, a key re-exporter to the EU. The action comes ahead of the European Commission’s proposal of a new law to exclude illegally-harvested timber products from the EU market.

The activists locked themselves to a loading crane and unveiled a banner reading "Protect Forests, Save Our Climate". At the same time, members of the local forest communities, who depend on the rainforest for their livelihood, conducted peaceful protests at the port and nearby logging camps.

PNG's forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate (1). One out of every four tropical hardwood logs imported into China comes from PNG. Most of the logs are processed into plywood and re-exported to large markets, including Europe (2)(3).

"As one of the largest consumers of tropical timber products, Europe is driving the illegal destruction of the world's forests, harming biodiversity and local communities," said Judy Rodrigues, Greenpeace International Forest Campaigner. "Since forest destruction is also responsible for about one-fifth of annual global greenhouse gas emissions this is also a major cause of climate change."

The European Commission will vote on the proposal for a new law later this month. Greenpeace is calling on the EU to adopt new and binding laws to ensure all wood products placed on its market come from legal and well-managed forests.

Other contacts: Judy Rodrigues, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace International
+31 6 46 166 299

Notes: 1) Scientists from the University of Papua New Guinea recently estimated that of the 1972 commercially accessible forest area, 83 percent will have been cleared or degraded by 2021, if current trends continue.

(2) China is the largest plywood producing and exporting country in the world (FAOStat). Europe’s imports of hardwood plywood from China have skyrocketed in the last decade. The value of plywood imported by the EU from China from around €8 million in 1999 to over €480 million in 2007. Hardwood plywood, usually made out of tropical species, made up over 90 percent of these imports in 2007. The largest importing countries were the UK (24 percent), Germany (17 percent), Belgium (13 percent) and the Netherlands (7 percent) (Eurostat). Europe was China’s second largest export destination for plywood in 2006, accounting for 25 percent of total exports (FAOStat)

(3) Greenpeace investigations have shown the clear chain-of-custody between illegal logging in PNG, manufacturing in China and re-export to Europe.