21 July 2005 NEW INQUIRY

21 July 2005 NEW INQUIRY


The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) yesterday set up a sub-committee to conduct an inquiry into sustainable timber. This follows on from the report by the previous EAC, Buying Time for Forests: Timber, Trade and Public Procurement, published in July 2002. The report was critical of the lack of control over the sources of timber bought by departments and the Government's initial lack of commitment on the issue, seen by the absence of clear guidance for departments on timber procurement. It also highlighted the fact that 60% of the tropical timber imported into the UK was illegally logged and therefore welcomed the bilateral agreement between the UK Government and Indonesia to tackle illegal timber felling and trade, and looked forward to further agreements with other timber producing countries.

Since the publication of the report the Government has put in place an independent Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) which is tasked with researching existing forest certification schemes and providing online guidance for suppliers and buyers.  In addition, the EU is in the process of producing a Regulation to implement the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan.  DEFRA is currently running a consultation on the FLEGT Action Plan and its implementation which closes in August 2005.

The Sub-Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit memoranda setting out their views on this inquiry.  Some specific issues on which the Sub-Committee would welcome comments are set out below, although respondents are free to comment on any issues which they consider relevant:

• How useful has the work of the CPET proved? How should its role develop to ensure future progress on the issue of sustainable timber procurement?

• How reliable are the certification schemes for timber endorsed by the CPET? Are there concerns regarding either the legality or sustainability of any of them?

• Is there sufficient data available to determine where and how timber purchased by Government is sourced?

• Is the use of certification schemes enough to ensure that the timber requirements of the UK and EU countries do not have detrimental impacts on forests and biodiversity in developing countries?  What other approaches should be used?

• How satisfactory are the EU proposals for FLATEG? Will they be stringent enough to have a significant impact?

• Should the social impacts of forestry be taken into account within certification schemes?  Would it be legal to do so?

• How successful has the bilateral agreement with Indonesia been in reducing the imports of illegal timber into the UK? What progress has there been on negotiating agreements with further countries?

• Does the inclusion of forestry projects in the Clean Development Mechanisms within the Kyoto Protocol have any implications for certification schemes?

The Sub-Committee expects to take oral evidence on this inquiry in October 2005. Written evidence should be sent to the Sub-Committee by Thursday  22 September  2005,  preferably by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk  (it is important we are also sent a hard copy by post). A copy should also be sent to arese@parliament.uk. A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee's web pages.  For further information on the Committee's inquiry, please telephone Elena Ares on 020-7219-4102

Notes for Editors

1.Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet home page, which can be found at the Committee's homepage.

Sub-Committee Membership

Chairman: Joan Walley MP

Mr Peter Ainsworth MP
Colin Challen MP
Mr Nick Hurd MP
Mr Mark Pritchard MP
Mrs Theresa Villiers MP