Environmental Audit Committee Press Notice


18 April 2002

Buying Time for Forests

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, world leaders from 180 countries recognised the damage being inflicted on a fragile Earth and agreed to adopt more sustainable policies. The Convention on Biological Diversity, designed to protect the world's threatened habitats including ancient forests and the life that depends upon them, was central to this agreement. A decade later, and the world's ancient forests continue to be degraded or destroyed at an unsustainable rate.

As the signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (and the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species), the UK Government has supported moves to protect ancient forests and encourage the sustainable production and use of timber. The UK Government was instrumental in encouraging commitments at the G8 in 2000 to ensure Government procurement of timber from sustainable sources and launched its own domestic Sustainable Timber Initiative in the same year, committing Government departments to seek to buy timber and timber products from sustainable and illegal sources. Yet, according to a recent report from the Friends of the Earth, the UK remains the largest volume importer of illegally logged timber.

As the Commons Select Committee tasked with monitoring the Government's contribution to sustainable development, the Environmental Audit Committee is today launching an inquiry to examine the Government's role in promoting the use of timber from sustainable sources.

The Committee will be particularly considering:

a) Government timber procurement, the Sustainable Timber Initiative, and the development of guidance on timber procurement for local authorities;

b) The implementation and effectiveness of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as it relates to timber;

c) The development of the forest certification system for domestically-produced timber;

d) The development and implementation of sustainable forestry indicators; and

e) Progress made at the Ancient Forest Summit at the Convention of Biological Diversity's 6th Conference of the Parties currently taking place in the Hague

Oral evidence sessions will be scheduled in May and June. The Committee expects to report in July. Interested organisations and individuals are invited to submit written evidence, either by post (addressed to the Clerk) or email by Tuesday 7 May 2002. Any queries relating to the inquiry should be directed to Jessica Mulley, Clerk of the Committee, Tel: 0207 219 0248

A brief guide for those wishing to submit a memorandum of evidence to the Committee is available. Copies can be faxed or posted upon request.

Note for Editors

1. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 became known as the Rio Earth Summit. This summit was the first international attempt to draw up action plans and strategies for moving towards a more sustainable pattern of development.

2. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) aims to protect certain plants and animals by regulating and monitoring their international trade to prevent it reaching unsustainable levels. The Convention entered into force in 1975, with the UK becoming a party to the Convention in 1976. There are now more than 150 parties to the Convention.