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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > British Government respond to our Rainforest Petition

British Government respond to our Rainforest Petition

Date : 3rd July 2002, Source : SOE

We delivered our petition on 28th March 2002 and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) finally replied on 3rd July 2002.

This is what they said :

Thank you for your letter and the compact disc of a 5,245 signatures petition to protect the rainforest and climate change to the Rt Hon Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher. I have been asked to reply.

The following sets out the action the Government is taking in pursuit of its commitment to sustainable forest management both nationally and internationally.

Domestic Action

In the UK, all nationally owned forests are certified against the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, which is recognised by the Forest Stewardship Council. This represents 40% of UK forests and 60% of timber output. We are working to increase certification amongst private forest owners. We have produced, in consultation will all stakeholders, National Forestry Strategies for each country and are preparing a new Statement on Sustainable Forestry. These together with the UK Forestry Standard will form the UK's forest programme.

In the UK, up to 25% of our forest area is protected in ways equivalent to IUCN categories for protected forest areas, and all forest is subject to forest laws which prevents unwanted conversion to other land uses. However, we are not complacent and recognise the need to improve the effectiveness of protection of our semi-natural forest remnants, which are fragmented and vulnerable to wider pressures on land use and climate change itself.

The Forest Industries Development Council (FIDC) representing the UK forestry industry, is coordinating preparation of a Forest Business Sectoral Sustainability Strategy covering the whole wood chain, from growing through to timber processing, with emphasis on the UK forest products sector, including renewable energy.

International Action

The Government is playing a leading role in international negotiation on forests in a number of fora including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance process and the G8.

The last Conference of Parties to the CBD adopted an expanded programme of work on forest biological diversity. Many of the emails defined this as the "first and foremost" priority. The UK worked hard to help deliver this agreement. We are now focusing on translating the programme into action and working on a review mechanism that, with time, will help monitor implementation of the programme of work. One of the areas where the UK plans to focus effort in working with international partners and other governments is on restoration of forests and forest biodiversity, where the UK now has considerable experience to offer.

Illegal logging, however, remains a big problem. It :

  • denies a livelihood to many poor people

  • robs governments of billions of dollars (the World Bank estimates $10-15 billion p.a.)

  • results in environmental degradation, and

  • provokes and sustains conflicts in several parts of the world.

It is a consequence of poor governance, at local, national and international levels. The Government is playing a leading role internationally to combat illegal logging and associated trade.

No single acion can stop illegal logging. Combating it requires the simultaneous implementation of many policies and measures in and between those countries that produce timber and those that import it.

Under EU law, a ban on illegally logged timber, as requested in many of the emails, can only be imposed at EU level. We are therefore working actively within the EU where this is now being considered. But an import ban alone will not work. We are therefore implementing a package of actions against illegal logging. These are :

  • implementing the government timber procurement policy that seeks to procure forest products only from legal and sustainable sources.

  • working with a number of timber exporting countries to help them improve governance and strengthen forest law enforcement.

  • building the capacity of civil society to monitor and contribute to the control of illegal logging, for example, in Indonesia.

  • reforming forest legislation and taxation policies that provide greater incentives for legal compliance, for example, in Ghana.

  • developing independent monitoring and verification processes to track forest crime, such as that undertaken by Forest Crime in Cambodia.

  • providing decision makers and civil society with independent and accurate information to monitor concession policies, such as that provided by the Global Forest Watch with UK support.

  • working to develop capacity for the implementation of timber certification schemes in some producing countries.

  • promoting bilateral agreements betwen the UK and timber producing countries whereby countries work together to tackle illegal logging and associated trade.

  • showing leadership within the European Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process that will the European Commission draft a FLEGT action by the end of 2002. The EU FLEGT action plan will include consideration of new EU legislative requirements to enforce the control of access to the EU market of illegally logged timber and timber products.

  • sponsoring research which has shown the negative economic impacts of illegal logging for the development of certain producing countries with a view to help them manage their natural resources in a more sustainable manner.

In addition, the Government continues to seek to ensure that the import of endangered timber species is in compliance with CITES, the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.

The Governments of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Indonesia signed, on April 18 2002, a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation to improve Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and to combat illegal logging and the international trade in illegally logged timber and timber products. This was the first such agreement of its kind. We are now discussing the content of the Memorandum with a number of both timber producing and timber consuming countries, including United States, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia as a possible model for taking forward actions on combating illegal logging on a bilateral, regional and multilateral basis.

In general, it is important to remember that combating illegal logging and associated trade requires effort from both timber producing and consuming countries. Timber producing countries are responsible for defining and enforcing the national legislative and regulatory frameworks that define legality. We are helping them to do so effectively.

Climate Change

As you say, forest protection could play a rile in lessening the degree of future global warming and the impacts of climate change. The measures to control illegal logging should contribute to this, as should eligibility of afforestation and reforestation projects in the Clean Development Mechanism. There is now good evidence that global climate is changing. Global temperatures have risen by about 0.6 Celsius over the last 100 years, and are predicted to increase by 1.4 and 5.8 Celsius by 2100, with the extent of warming dependent on the rate of greenhouse gas increase in the atmosphere. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPSS) concluded that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases". Fossil fuel burning contributes 6.3 Pg C per year to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, while estimates suggest that land-use change (primarily deforestation in tropical regions) contributes 1.7 Pg C per year.

Given the large contribution of fossil fuels to increases in carbon dioxide, the Government is making a substantial effort to tackle the causes of climate change through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The UK's Climate Change Programme will help us meet our target under the Kyoto Protocol to cut UK emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012 and move towards our domestic goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. Of course, the problem rests not just with the UK (which contributes around 4% of global emissions) but with all countries releasing significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The UK continues to be a world leader in the international negotiations to tackle climate change. Along with our EU partners, we completed ratification procedures of the Kyoto Protocol on 31 May. The Kyoto Protocol is the first important step towards establishing an international framework for agreeing further cuts and future action.

If you wish to see more information on the work of the UK government to protect the environment, please visit the DEFRA website:

Yours Sincerely.

Document last updated on Wednesday 01 August 2018

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