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UK takes action against companies importing timber from Cameroon tied to illegal logging

  • UK authorities have taken action against 14 companies sourcing timber from Cameroon linked to illegal logging.
  • Six UK companies received a notice of remedial action, seven received a letter of warning, and one company an advice letter, Greenpeace Africa reported yesterday.
  • Official sanctions will follow if the companies fail to meet the terms laid out by the authorities charged with enforcing the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

UK authorities have taken action against 14 companies sourcing timber from Cameroon linked to illegal logging.

Six companies received a notice of remedial action, seven received a letter of warning, and one company an advice letter, Greenpeace Africa reported yesterday. Official sanctions will follow if the companies fail to meet the terms laid out by the authorities charged with enforcing the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

Cameroon’s forests are some of the most species-rich and biologically diverse in the Congo Basin. They provide crucial habitat for endangered Western Lowland Gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants, among many other species — but they are being rapidly destroyed by unchecked illegal logging.

“This action by the UK government sends a clear message to the timber industry that illegal timber has no place in Britain,” Richard George, Head of Forests at Greenpeace UK, said in a statement.

“Illegal logging is devastating Cameroon’s forests, and companies in the UK and other EU countries are complicit in this destruction by ignoring their responsibility to check the legality of the timber they are importing. Belgium and Italy, as the biggest importers of Cameroonian timber to the EU, must stop turning a blind eye to suspect timber and actually enforce the law.”

Wood truck near the village of Ngon. District of Ebolowa, Cameroon. Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)..

Under the EUTR, which came into force in 2013, companies importing timber into Europe must have measures in place to minimize the risk that the wood they’re buying is sourced from illegal operations, including having paperwork to demonstrate the legality of the timber all the way back to the point of harvest — something that is almost impossible to do when sourcing from Cameroon, according to Greenpeace Africa.

This principle of due diligence being expected of timber importers is being implemented in key markets such as the EU, Australia, and the United States via a variety of laws that aim to prohibit the trade in illegal timber, including the EUTR, the U.S. Lacey Act, and Australia’s Illegal Logging Prohibition Act. A total of 495 company inspections and 300 corrective actions were reported by EU and Australian enforcement officials in the past half year, Washington, D.C.-based NGO Forest Trends reported last March. The group said these actions highlight the increased enforcement that EU countries are taking against companies that fail to comply with the law.

A legally binding trade agreement known as a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed by Cameroon and the EU came into force in 2010. The aim of the VPA was to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for the EU comply with Cameroon’s laws. But Cameroon’s government has made little effort to rein in illegal logging.

“Cameroon’s authorities must examine this new set of sanctions and start investigating the companies in question as a first step to tackle the illegality and corruption in the timber sector,” Eric Ini, Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, said in a statement.

“Furthermore, Cameroon must also ensure that the Voluntary Partnership Agreement co-signed with the EU is fully implemented to stop illegal logging and strengthen forest governance in Cameroon.”