The EU and Côte d'Ivoire are to launch negotiations on partnership to fight illegal logging
BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, June 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The European Union and Côte d'Ivoire announced today that they will launch negotiations of a new trade agreement to combat illegal logging. This scourge affects millions of poor people who depend on forests for their livelihoods, deprives governments of billions of euros every year and the associated deforestation worsens climate change. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) that will be negotiated is a legally-binding agreement, designed to set up control and licencing systems to ensure that all timber imported to the EU from Côte d'Ivoire has been produced legally.
Côte d'Ivoire has around 10,405,000 hectares of forest (more than three times the area of Belgium). However, in the last 50 years, the country has seen its forests reduced by 75%, due among other factors to pressures from the exploitation of timber and fuel wood.
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: “Illegal logging continues to have a devastating impact on some of the world's most valuable forests, and the people who depend on them to live and to make a living. Côte d'Ivoire exports 80% of its forestry products to the EU and as one of the biggest global markets for timber, the EU is part of both the problem and the solution. I hope that these negotiations will deliver a new agreement, which will be a crucial step forward in protecting this valuable forest before it's too late”.
Voluntary Partnership Agreements are part of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan; a ground breaking scheme that has achieved considerable results in its first ten years. According to an independent report the FLEGT Action Plan and related initiatives have led to a reduction of illegal logging by 50% in many tropical countries, saving up to 17 million hectares of forest from degradation and avoided several billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. But it's clear that more needs to be done.
A joint declaration will be signed today in Abidjan by Mathieu Babaud Darret, Minister of Water and Forests, and Thierry de Saint Maurice, EU Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire. In deciding to launch the negotiation of a new FLEGT VPA, the two sides make a commitment to fight illegal logging and promote good governance, anchored in an international treaty.
The Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) is the EU response to the illegal logging of forests and its devastating impacts on forest communities, on the environment and on the economy of developing countries. The Action Plan combines measures in timber producer countries (supply side) with measures in consumer countries (demand side).
The EU has so far concluded negotiations of VPAs with six countries: Ghana, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Liberia, Central African Republic and Indonesia (covering a total of 1.86 million km2 of forests.). These countries have undertaken significant reforms and are upgrading their traceability and control systems. Nine other agreements are under negotiation; civil society and the private sector are actively taking part in the negotiations and the national debate on forest governance.
FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) are at the core of FLEGT Action Plan implementation. VPAs are bilateral trade agreements between the EU and timber exporting countries, which aim to improve forest governance and guarantee that the wood imported into the EU from the partner country is from legal sources.
A new EU Timber Regulation, that entered into application on March 3, 2013, makes it a an offence to place illegally sourced timber on the EU market and obliges EU operators to take measures to prevent illegal timber from entering their supply chain. Amendments to the Accounting and Transparency Directives require large EU logging companies operating in primary forests to publicly disclose payments they make to governments. Eleven EU Member States have adopted green public procurement policies requiring timber and timber products to be from legal and sustainable sources.