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We must protect the world's forests

We must protect the world's forests

WWF | WWF

3 min read Partner content

WWF highlights the global threat to forests and what the UK can do to combat this. It has set up the forest campaign to help this effort

People need forests. We rely on them for everything from medicines and cosmetics to the minor matters of having breathable air and a liveable climate. They also teem with wildlife – the Amazon rainforest alone holds one in ten of all the world’s known species. But we are currently failing to protect these vital and wonderful places.  Despite EU regulation the UK is still importing illegal and unsustainably grown timber. WWF’s forest campaign seeks to close the bizarre loopholes in the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) that make this possible and to put the UK on track to being part of the sustainable solution.

The EUTR came into force in 2013 with the aim of preventing illegal wood being imported into Europe. Unfortunately as it stands the regulation simply fails to achieve this, mainly due to a panoply of strange and frankly perplexing gaps in its coverage. Some of the stand-out absurdities of the regulation include the fact that whilst picture frames are covered, a frame with a picture inside is not; that tables fall within its scope but chairs do not; and that whole product groups such as printed materials are not covered at all.

However at the end of this year the EUTR is up for review, meaning that the UK Government has the opportunity to work with others to improve the regulation and close those loopholes. At the moment any of us could be buying products made from illegal wood without even knowing it; this just isn’t acceptable. If I buy a chair, or a chopping board, or even a book I don’t want to be worrying that I’m supporting illegal logging. What WWF is asking for is simple – to make the regulation do what it was supposed to do, by ensuring all wood based-products are covered by it. This will help protect forests, put consumers’ minds at rest, and simplify the process of importing timber for British businesses.

But just stopping importing illegal timber into the UK is not enough. Whilst this would certainly be progress, the fact that wood is legal does not necessarily mean that it is from sustainably managed forests. Unfortunately, irreplaceable and biodiverse trees and forests can be logged quite legally in certain circumstances, so we also need to make sure that the wood we use in the UK is grown and logged sustainably. WWF is working with businesses, consumers and politicians to ensure that by 2020 all the wood sold in the UK will be from sustainably managed forests.

If we fail to protect forests we make life harder for the people that rely on them for their survival, we undermine global efforts to tackle climate change, and we risk losing many of the most biodiverse areas of the planet. But if the UK adopts a responsible, sustainable timber trade we can help galvanise global action on the issue.  Moving towards a responsible timber trade already has strong support in the UK. Our government and a variety of businesses have made commitments to procure sustainably-sourced wood products and WWF’s forest campaign has attracted huge public support.

We now need to seize the opportunity of the EUTR’s review to make the regulation fit for purpose and get the UK on the road to becoming a country that drives the protection of the world’s forests rather than contributing to their destruction.

Photograph: Copyright Kate Holt / WWF-UK

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