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International Forest Policy

BMEL co-ordinates the federal government’s international forest policy and is committed both to combating ongoing deforestation and illegal logging, and to promoting sustainable forest management.

13 million hectares of natural forest, more than the entire forest cover in Germany, are destroyed every year, particularly in tropical countries. As a consequence of poverty, non-sustainable land use, weak government structures and the economic attractiveness of other forms of land use (e.g. soy cultivation, palm oil extraction), large stretches of natural forests in developing countries are frequently converted to other uses. Illegal logging, i.e. the felling of trees in violation of statutory provisions in the harvest country, leads not only to deforestation and the loss of biodiversity but also impedes climate protection and the fight against poverty.

European Co-operation

In this context, the Member States of the European Union – a major demand market for timber products – can help to improve the situation. The Act on Trade of Illegally Harvested Timber entered into force on 15 July 2011. It aims to combat illegal logging around the world and forest destruction in Germany. Based on EU Regulation 2173/2005 it lays down rules for the national controls of timber imports from signatory countries of the EU Partnership Agreement against illegal logging. These countries are Ghana, the Republic of Congo, the Republic of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Indonesia and Liberia. The European Commission is currently in negotiations with other countries like Malaysia. Under these agreements, the partners set up an approval and licensing system to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU. In return, they receive direct support for capacity-building in the areas of forest management, law enforcement and the creation of alternative earning opportunities for people employed in illegal logging who are usually from poor rural areas.

Timber Trade Regulation

As this kind of partnership agreement will not be possible in the foreseeable future with all the major timber-producing countries, the Timber Trade Regulation was enacted on 20 December 2010 at the EU level as an effective back-up. It prohibits the marketing of illegally harvested timber and obliges all market participants, which introduce timber or timber products into the EU for the first time, to comply with specific due diligence obligations. They include the requirement to provide information on the type and origin of timber and measures to evaluate and minimise the risk of the timber stemming from illegal harvesting. The Timber Trade Regulation will be fully implemented from 3 March 2013 and the Act on Trade of Illegally Harvested Timber will be correspondingly supplemented in Germany by then.

Although the EU has no formal responsibility for a joint European forest policy, EU activities in international forest policy are closely co-ordinated. At the EU level, forest measures are aligned by the Member States and the European Commission within the EU Forest Strategy and the EU Forest Action Plan.

Green Paper on Forest Protection and Forest Information

The "Green Paper on Forest Protection and Information" presented by the European Commission in 2010, is designed to trigger debate about the options for a EU concept for the protection of forests and forest information systems. The aim is to analyse how climate change alters the conditions for forest management and protection in Europe and what precautionary measures must be taken to ensure that Europe’s forests can continue to fulfil their functions under changing climate conditions, too. Against this backdrop the Member States currently support the updating of the EU Forest Strategy from 2012.

Pan-European Forestry Ministers’ Process "Forest Europe"

In the pan-European policy process “Forest Europe”, the EU forestry ministers also work together with their European colleagues from non-EU Member States. At the 6th European Forest Europe Ministerial Conference in Oslo in June 2011, they gave the green light for negotiations on a legally binding forest instrument. One of the biggest challenges facing all European countries is the conflict between the growing demand for timber on the one hand, and the call for a widening of the renunciation of uses on nature conservation grounds on the other. The EuWood study commissioned by the European Commission predicts a shortage in supply by 2030 of between 150 – 420 million cubic metres of timber per year in the EU unless counter-action is taken. The intended Forest Convention is to lay down the joint goals and a binding framework for forest management and the improved reconciliation of the various interests in forest policy. The overriding goal of the pan-European forestry ministers’ process is sustainable forest management which protects the climate and the environment, maintains biodiversity and creates regional earning opportunities. The negotiations are to be concluded by 2013 and are to send out a positive signal to the other countries as well as to promote discussions about a global forest instrument.

The Forest Agreement of the United Nations

In April 2007 a milestone was laid in the international negotiations at the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) with the decisive support of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The International Forest Agreement, something advocated by the EU Member States for some time now, contains a globally valid definition of sustainable forest management:

'Sustainable forest management as a dynamic and evolving concept aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental values of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.'

The national obligations set out in the Forest Agreement encompass forest use, forest protection and social aspects. They cover, for instance, more efficient, resource-conserving timber transformation, the marketing of forest products like fruit, honey and medicinal plants, the setting up of networks of forest reserves or the involvement of the local population in political planning and decisions. Although it is not legally binding, the Forest Agreement can, in this context, give fresh impetus to efforts around the world to promote sustainable forest management.

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