With around 40 attendees, the talk from an Environmental NGO perspective by Jean-Luc Blakey from Global Witness was clearly a topic of interest for LHC members.
We were given a brief overview of how Global Witness has been investigating and reporting on the effects of conflict and corruption on global natural resource extraction practices since it was established in 1993.
Having been primarily involved on investigations in Oil and Mining previously (mostly in the Congo Basin), Jean-Luc has progressed to work on Timber issues fairly recently. He drew chuckles from the members in attendance when he confessed to finding himself more interested by timber than he had initially expected he would be.
He said he was at the London Hardwood Club to hear our views because his sector is our
sector, and that he sees areas for cooperation between the UK Hardwood Trade and Global Witness. At heart, Global Witness want to promote increased dialogue between
stakeholders to effect ever greater traceability and transparency in hardwood supply chains.
As a key framework in today’s UK Hardwood Trade, the EUTR was highlighted as not being perfect, but also that the EU should still be applauded for its implementation. It provides European Governments and NGOs with a clear mechanism under which to pursue those actively engaged in illicit trading and forestry practices. Whilst admitting the EUTR is painstaking to enforce, fiddly to implement, and could potentially be undermined, Global Witness will campaign for the legislation to be kept in UK law post-Brexit.
Jean-Luc pointed out that radically different levels of funding for the Competent Authorities (CA) across the EU, have led to clear geographical variations in what is considered sufficient due diligence. This clearly risks loopholes whereby inadequately assessed timber could enter the EU in a country with a poorly funded CA and where due diligence is inadequate, in order to be sold on to other, more stringent EU nations without the legal requirement forfurther due diligence assessment.
We heard that Global Witness feel justified in exposing EU Operators and Traders caught handling high risk timber in order to shine a spotlight on the inadequacies at the CA level in that particular country. These headlines will in turn put pressure on the government in question to allocate more funding to their CA for improved EUTR implementation.
We heard that some EUTR CAs are required to monitor, a range of imports including, for example, the import of hazardous chemicals as well as that of tropical timber. When forced to choose, individuals working in those organisations could feel pressured to prioritise checks on other products, over checks on illegally harvested timber entering timber yards.
A lively Q&A session followed with discussions on the EUTR & Eastern European timber, the global significance of UK hardwood timber import volumes, the deforestation prevention benefits of hardwood operations, and the lack of CO2 emissions regulation for competitive industries such as Concrete, Steel and Aluminium. Jean-Luc pointed to Global Witness reports on Rosewood exports from Cambodia to China, and timber exports from Papau New Guinea to China as being of potential interest to members. The meeting was closed and many continued the discussions over some further refreshment at Finch’s.
The LHC would like to thank Jean-Luc for his open, considered and light-hearted
presentation to its members. The club aims to be presenting relevant and engaging speakers like this to its members and guests at each of these bi-monthly lunch meetings.
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