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George White (GTF), Mark van Benthem, Jan Oldenburger & Sander Teeuwen (Probos), November 2019

Between 25% and 32% of the primary tropical timber imported into the EU28 was exposed to sustainable timber certification, reveals the latest Probos and GTF Tropical Timber Market Data report. There exist great room for improvement and this number demands decisive action by all stakeholders.

The seven main importing countries (Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain) together represent approximately 90% of the EU28 primary tropical timber product import. The concentration of imports in these seven countries provides a strong lever for change. A rapid shift towards sustainable timber could have wide-ranging consequences for the world’s tropical forests.

If the EU28 sourced 100% verified sustainable, it could positively impact an additional 11.7 to 13.4 million hectares of tropical forest. Based on the assumption that certification will prevent premature re-entry logging in the areas it covers, the EU trade in certified tropical timber has the potential to mitigate 55 to 88 million metric tons CO2 a year.

In order to achieve the above impacts and beyond, NGOs, governments, and the private sector in EU timber importing countries not only need to commit to 100% sourcing of verified sustainable tropical timber but also promote the use of sustainable tropical timber as a material, and encourage market growth. We ask civil society and knowledge institutions to support countering the narrative that all timber is not sustainable and to encourage countries with low sustainable sourcing rates to prioritize sustainability. European governments must address sustainable tropical timber in their procurement policies and enhance EUTR enforcement. And all of Europe must continue to work in partnership with key supplier countries and increase international cooperation with other emerging economies. The private sector must drive increases in demand. Buyers must increase purchases, promote sustainable timber to customers, and ensure that the benefits and sustainability of products that bear labels like FSC and PEFC are communicated. All stakeholders’ contributions and collaboration are necessary to generate quality monitoring information – greater industry involvement and transparency will allow to develop powerful and specific solutions to growing sustainable tropical timber imports.

It is only through intensified European ambitions and joint public-private actions that we will have the chance to protect and restore tropical forests. Thus, in line with the release of the latest EU Communication (2019) on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, we urge the top importing and consuming countries in EU to recommit to 100% sustainable tropical timber.

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