Illegal Softwood Timber Trade Faces Crackdown


The British Environment Minister has revealed that around 7% of Britain’s imported timber is illegally sourced and transported. This is despite Britain’s supposed “green” policy towards the timber trade. 2012 is expected to herald a ban on illegal timber throughout the EU.

Laws violated in the harvesting, transportation and sale of softwood timber are broken for various reasons. Cutting down trees in a protected area or exceeding the limit of the number of units allowed to be taken from a particular area will now face strict penalties. 80% of the world’s timber comes from softwood, mostly conifer trees, in areas such as the Baltic and North America.

Due to the extent of the problem, with WWF estimating that around 40% of timber is sourced from illegally logged forests, the EU is using its collective might to crack down on offenders. The situation is serious, with worrying environmental factors such as climate change a risk of reduced tree deforestation, as well as the potential collapse of societies dependent on the forest for employment or nutrition.

Although the campaign was kick started in 2008, it will not be for another two years that the ruling becomes law. The setbacks are a result of protracted legal wrangling over whether penalties should be inflicted on companies unknowingly buying the illegal wood.

2012 will see the criminalisation of the illegal timber trade in Europe as EU states promise to impose strict financial penalties. The new law states penalties should represent “at least five times the value of the timber products obtained by committing a serious infringement”. Those buying wood from merchants will be required to check it is from a legal source or face consequences themselves.

The new law aims to curb the excesses of illegal timber trafficking. Only time will tell if the new measures work, but already environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace and WWF are calling for an even stricter law.

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