BEIJING: China, emergent superpower and the world’s second biggest economy, is effectively standing on the sidelines as its exponential growth devastates forests in a trade worth billions of dollars a year.
In the new report Appetite for Destruction: China’s Trade in Illegal Timber, launched today in Beijing, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals that China is now the single largest international consumer of illegal timber, importing wood stolen by organised criminal syndicates on a massive scale.
In the past 10 years, significant progress has been made to protect shrinking forests around the world from the devastating impacts of illegal logging. As major timber-consumers, the United States the European Union and Australia have now taken legislative steps to exclude stolen timber from their markets, while key producer countries such as Indonesia have dramatically improved enforcement against illegal logging.
Yet although China has taken vigorous and laudable steps to protect and re-grow its own forests, it has simultaneously nurtured a vast and ravenous wood processing industry reliant on importing most of its raw materials.
“China is now effectively exporting deforestation around the world,” said Faith Doherty, head of EIA’s Forests Campaign.
“Any further meaningful progress to safeguard the forests of the world is being undermined unless the Chinese Government acts swiftly and decisively to significantly strengthen its enforcement and ensure that illegal timber is barred from its markets.”
EIA investigators has been conducting field investigations into flows of illicit timber, including working undercover and posing as timber buyers, since 2004 in China, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, the Russian Far East and Vietnam.
Appetite for Destruction examines the extent and impacts on these countries of China’s voracious consumption, and features several case studies from countries whose forests are being severely depleted.
“This report makes a clear and concise case for action by China,” added Doherty. “The burden of making any further progress in the international fight against deforestation, illegal logging and the criminal networks behind it now rests squarely on its shoulders.”
To coincide with the report, EIA is releasing a short film on the issue; it can be downloaded and embedded at https://vimeo.com/54229395.
For more information on rainforest destruction in Borneo, please visit: http://borneoproject.org/borneo/overview-of-current-threats