The study, commissioned by IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative) and conducted by GTF and Probos, analyzes European tropical timber imports and their impacts on sustainable forest management in producing countries. This report follows two previous studies, published in 2019 and 2020, which examined imports of primary and secondary tropical timber products respectively.
This new study deepens its analysis of sustainable tropical timber imports, and extends its recommendations, which in the first two studies focused on increasing demand for certified timber products.
The research, conducted by sustainable forest management experts of Stiching Probos and the Global Timber Forum, again highlights the important role that the European market can play in encouraging the development of responsible forest management in tropical countries. Indeed, despite increasing competition from other materials, the European market remains stable and is the world leader in the demand for sustainable timber products. The new report concludes that if Europe had sourced 100% of its timber products from sustainable tropical forests, it would have had a positive impact on more than 16 million hectares of semi-natural and natural tropical forests and would have significantly reduced its CO2 emissions in 2020.
Last month, COP26 drew attention to the need to preserve tropical forests to address climate change. The decision taken in Glasgow to halt deforestation by 2030 should not be misinterpreted and should instead make consumers and policy makers aware of the need to encourage the use of tropical timber from sustainably managed forests in order to add value to these forests. This must include improving the competitiveness of producers, improving the often bad image of tropical timber, and increasing European demand for certified timber to boost production and thus counter competition from illegal timber. As Mark van Benthem, one of the authors of the study, points out, "Giving value to forests be it via climate finance or verified sustainable timber, incentivizes sustainable forest management. The demand for timber is growing, with some end users returning to buying timber having switched back from more environmentally damaging materials. So, there are market opportunities arising for tropical producers."
In addition, addressing current questions about FLEGT mechanisms, the study reports that more than 75 % of imports come from countries engaged in a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) process, suggesting that the role of FLEGT is still important for both importing and exporting countries.