There is a growing coalition of companies and other organisations in the EU committed to making the case for a long-term trade in tropical hardwoods in the EU – although with the important qualification that all tropical wood promoted for use in the EU should be either third party certified or, at minimum, subject to independent legality verification. That of course raises questions, still not satisfactorily addressed, about equitable market access, particularly for community and other non-industrial forest operators.
The FLEGT Action Plan and associated work through Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with most of the leading tropical wood suppliers to the EU is beginning to encourage the development of more enlightened policy environment and positive image for tropical wood products in the EU.
Meanwhile there are signs that the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (STTC), which started in 2013, is gaining momentum. The STTC brings together companies in timber sector, retail, and end-use industries, with government officials and NGOs in the interests of promoting increased use of certified tropical timber in the EU. STTC has established a target to increase EU sales of certified tropical timber by 50% over 2013 levels by 2020.
In March STTC launched a new phase of development involving a closer strategic partnership with the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), re-energised communications and membership drives and, critically, a funding initiative to back private and public sector Action Plans and projects.
Timber businesses can now receive match-funding for activities in the framework of an STTC Action Plan for up to 30% of the cost, or Euro15,000. Federations are eligible for grants of up to Euro30,000 for developing sustainable sourcing policies. In addition, STTC partners and participants can submit project proposals with a requested STTC contribution up to Euro50,000 if it contributes to STTC objectives.
A new website (www.europeansttc.com) lays out STTC goals and the all-round case for using sustainable tropical timber. It provides technical data, tropical timber application case studies, lists STTC partners and members and explains how to join and apply for funding.
ATIBT, PEFC and STTC link up to promote tropical timber
Also in March, STTC acquired two influential new partners with potentially important implications for the future scope, direction and level of support for STTC activities. One new STTC partner is the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), which supports development of international trade in tropical timber, both as a viable business, and a means of helping maintain the tropical forest and the habitats and biodiversity it supports.
On announcing the partnership, ATIBT President Robert Hunink emphasised the important role of STTC to encourage introduction and promotion of so-called ‘lesser used species’, noting that “successful promotion of these species is especially crucial for the economic viability of operators in the Congo Basin and to maintain a balanced species composition in the forest.”
PEFC is the other new STTC member and is already in discussion with STTC about a project which aims to increase European imports of certified tropical timber from Asia, now one of PEFC’s principal focus areas. The specific objective of the joint project is to create improved linkages between growing certified Asian timber output and the EU market and to address critical bottlenecks in supply of certified wood products from the region.