APEC Cracks Down on Illegal Logging Over Global Deforestation

Amid worsening climate change, the EGILAT is calling for forest protection

Tue 10 Oct 23


APEC has reiterated calls for global economies to increase forest cover as leaders from the world’s largest forest areas act on illegal logging and deforestation.

The collective represents 50% of global forest areas, 60% of global wood products and 80% of international trade in forest products, with ministers focused on climate change and the impact of illegal logging.

“None of us are immune to the effects of climate change,” according to Katherine Konschnik, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice.

Briefing the APEC Expert Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade, Ms Konschnik said the group had two goals: to promote trade in legally harvested forest products and support capacity-building activities in member economies.

“These twin goals,” she said, “are inexplicably linked to some of our greatest challenges.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, deforestation has reduced from 11 million hectares yearly in 2000-2010 to 7.8 million hectares over 2010-2018.

“But the rate of global forest loss continues at an alarming rate, especially with the severe state of climate change, biodiversity loss, and economic challenges facing remote communities,” according to Konschnik.

Data provided by the World Resources Institute and Forest Watch.

In June, Wood Central reported that an area of tropical forest the size of Switzerland was lost last year, with political commitment to end deforestation made by world leaders at COP26 being well off track.

Brazil was responsible for 43% of the world’s total loss of forest area, equivalent to 1.78 million hectares of primary loss.

Most of this loss is in the Amazonia state, with Reuters reporting that deforestation in the Amazon was down 57% for September.

The total area cleared in the Amazon in the first nine months of the year fell 49.5%, according to preliminary data from Brazilian space research agency INPE, as part of a new policy direction from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Nonetheless, “APEC economies account for over 50% of the world’s forests,” she said.

“A commitment to promoting legal trade and ensuring the sustainable use of our forests is key in global efforts to combat climate change and conserve biodiversity.”

She noted that the United States, APEC host economy for 2023, has made substantial efforts to combat illegal logging and advance trade in legal timber products.

In recent months, President Biden has issued executive orders to support international enforcement efforts on illegal logging, advance sustainable forest management, and address deforestation. 

“Agreements involving enforcement, training, and technical assistance have been formalised with partner economies within the APEC region, such as Papua New Guinea, Peru and Vietnam,” according to Ms Konschnik. 

In August, the US Government flagged concerns with the Vietnamese Government over its management of imported hardwoods manufactured into furniture and exported to the US market.

Wood Central reported that Vietnam relies heavily on imported hardwoods to meet the demand for manufactured hardwood furniture.

Vietnam imports up to 6 million cubic metres from more than 100 countries, with the US expressing concerns that much of this supply comes from high-risk countries.

The US is now using mass spec spectrometry, DNA profiling, and wood identification tools like xylotron to address illegal logging. 

This includes repurposed trailers, with forensic scientists testing up to 60,000 tree species that are “chemically fingerprinted” to analyse timbers from Southeast Asia, the Amazon and Africa.

“Such tools enable timber products to be tested to identify their listed species and place of origin,” Ms Konschnik said. 

“This type of data can help buyers ensure they are purchasing legal timber and assist governments in prosecuting criminal behaviour,” she continues.

“Tools to track and safeguard data within the supply chain were also discussed, including geo-referencing (GPS) databases and blockchain technology.”

According to the 2023 Chair of EGILAT, Jennifer Conje, this work requires persistence, with the long-term payoff only evident many years after investment.

“But it is important work,” according to Ms Conje, the CEO of the USDA Forest Service.

“This requires us to be willing” to look at “the different aspects from policy, capacity building and enforcement, and recognise the numerous drivers of global forest loss and deforestation and the ever-changing landscapes of market regulations and preferences”.

“The work of EGILAT,” said Conje, “specifically, the determination of what constitutes legal timber harvest and trade in each of our economies and enforcement of these provisions, both as producers and consumers, forms the cornerstone of these discussions.”


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