Good News-Bad News: Illegal Logging Declining - But Still a Huge Problem, New Report Says


photo: iangbl via flickr

Good news and bad news coming out of the think tank Chatham House today: According to their new report, Illegal Logging and Related Trade, the amount of timber chopped down and produced illegally has fallen 22% since 2002 globally--with some nations seeing as much as a 75% decline. That said, the report also notes that illegal logging remains a major problem, with illegal activities occurring in ways that are less obvious and easy to detect.Indonesia, Brazil, Cameroon All See Big Declines
Some of the highlighted improvements: A 50% reduction in illegal timber in Cameroon, a 50-75% drop in Brazil, and a 75% decline in Indonesia (which remains though the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, thanks to rampant deforestation, illegal and legal). In total this level of crime reduction has meant that some 17 million hectares (42 million acres) of forest has been preserved from deforestation and forest degradation.

And the remaining problem: The report notes that as overt illegal logging gets reduced, less easily detected methods remain--companies obtaining legal permits and then logging outside the boundaries of the permit, and companies illegally obtaining permits to clear land for agricultural use and both cited as intractable problems.

There's Letter of the Law & Spirit of the Law
A recent further example of these type of shenanigans is highlighted in a separate report by Eyes on the Forest, which documents how the Indonesian government has continued to grant multinational paper companies rights to clear forest in areas of high conservation value, all ahead of a separate government pledge to halt new logging concessions starting in 2011--clearly a violation of the spirit of the law if not the letter.

China Clearly Outpaces Rest of World in Illegal Timber Trade
At the other end of the illegal timber trade, Chatham House points out that China is world's top importer and exporter of illegal timber, importing some 20 million cubic meters of illegal wood annually. That's more than the next five countries surveyed combined.

Looking at data from 2008, the report says that the US, France, Japan, the UK, France, and the Netherlands in total bought 17 million cubic meters of illegal timber and wood products. That trade, worth approximately $8.4 billion, largely enters via China.

North-South Cooperation on Logging Yielding Results
Painting a positive picture of future cooperation, report lead author Sam Lawson notes, "The effort to combat illegal logging and improve forest governance has brought developed and developing countries together in a unique way with a shared sense of purpose. Our study shows that consumer interest and pressure combined with action by producer countries can yield very positive results."

Read more: Illegal Logging and Related Trade: Indicators of the Global Response [PDF]

Like this? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

More on Deforestation:
Amazon Deforestation Increases Malaria Rates by 50%
10 Countries With the Highest Deforestation Rates in the World
More Dirty Deforestation: 55% of Indonesia's Logging Illegal + Cargill's Two Hidden Palm Oil Plantations
Amazon Deforestation Down 51 Percent From This Time Last Year: So, What's Working?

Tags: China | Deforestation | Environmental Certifications

Best of TreeHugger