Malaysian sustainable timber certification fails Dutch standards

Jeremy Hance
October 23, 2011

 Logging truck carrying timber out of the Malaysian rainforest. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Logging truck carrying timber out of the Malaysian rainforest. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

An independent panel in the Netherlands has found that the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) falls short of Dutch standards for sustainable forestry. The final decision comes after a series of judgements and appeals with the latest panel concluding that MTCS still allows natural forest to be destroyed for monoculture plantation and that the scheme ignores the rights of indigenous people.

"Now that this appeal procedure has demonstrated that MTCS (Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme) does not guarantee sustainable forest management, State Secretary Atsma can show that he is truly the State Secretary of Environment by approving MTCS only when it complies with the Dutch procurement policy. This is about the credibility of a Dutch procurement policy, a policy that was unanimously adopted in Parliament," Hilde Stroot of Greenpeace-Netherlands said in a press release.

The panel further found that the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) drawn up by the MTCS did not meet sustainability requirements and that maps of the forests in question were not available to the public.

Despite the findings, the Dutch government may go over the head of the panel and still allow MTCS timber.

"State Secretary Atsma has already three times attempted to shortcut the grievance and appeal procedure, but he was stopped by Dutch Parliament twice and eventually by the Court, who ordered the State Secretary to await the outcome of the Appeal Procedure that MTCC itself had commenced. During this procedure, Atsma had made a deal with the Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Bernard Dompok. MTCC would tighten up its guidelines for indigenous peoples and forest conversion," Eric Wakker of Aid Environment told mongabay.com

In a press release the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) states that it 'regrets' the panels findings, and argues that it has made changes to address concerns, including that forests scheduled for conversion into monocultures are not certified and improved acknowledgement of indigenous rights.

"The outcome of this process undermines the efforts, especially by developing tropical forest countries like Malaysia, to implement timber certification as a market-linked tool to achieve the sustainable management of their natural forests," Mr. Chew Lye Teng, Chief Executive Offier of MTCC, said.

The Netherlands accounts for nearly half of MTCS timber exports. Over the past two decades Malaysia has lost forests covering an area half the size of Switzerland (nearly 2 million hectares or 8.6 percent of its total forest cover) according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). As of 2010, over 60 percent of the country was still classified as forests, but only 11.6 percent of these forests were considered pristine. Most forests have been selectively logged at least once and the country has not reported its primary forest cover since the 1990s.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 23, 2011).

Malaysian sustainable timber certification fails Dutch standards .