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Forests worldwide bind CO


and store it – so called Green carbon – and help mitigate

climate change. However, deforestation accounts for an estimated 17 per cent of global

carbon emissions: about 1.5 times greater than emissions from all the world’s air, road,

rail and shipping traffic combined.

The vast majority of deforestation and illegal logging takes

place in the tropical forests of the Amazon basin, Central Africa

and Southeast Asia. Recent studies into the extent of illegal log-

ging estimate that illegal logging accounts for 50–90 per cent

of the volume of all forestry in key producer tropical countries

and 15–30 per cent globally. Meanwhile, the economic value of

global illegal logging, including processing, is estimated to be

worth between US$ 30 and US$ 100 billion, or 10–30 per cent

of global wood trade.

A number of certification schemes and programmes have

evolved to reduce illegal logging. These schemes, such as vol-

untary trade agreements including the EU Forest Law Enforce-

ment, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership

Agreements (VPAs), or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

certification, have been successful in bringing stakeholders

together and generating incentives for legal exports and more

sustainable forestry.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is increasingly being used

by states to ensure that trade in listed timber species is legal,

sustainable and traceable. Around 350 tree species are now in-

cluded in the three CITES Appendices, and trade in their prod-

ucts is therefore subject to regulation to avoid utilization that

is incompatible with their survival. CITES is also working with

the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to pro-

mote sustainable forest management and to build the capacity

of developing states to effectively implement the Convention as

it relates to listed tree species.

The main aim of the above mechanisms are to promote sus-

tainable trade. With the exception of CITES, they were not

designed to combat organized crime and are not effective in

combating illegal logging, corruption and laundering of ille-

gal timber in tropical regions. Other incentives and subsidies

to offer alternative incomes are unlikely to be effective when

illegal logging and laundering offer much higher profits and

very low risk. Widespread collusive corruption from local of-

ficials to the judiciary, combined with decentralized govern-

ment structures in many tropical countries, provide little or

no economic incentive for illegal loggers and corrupt officials

to change their practices.

To become effective, voluntary trade programmes and the ef-

fective implementation of CITES, must be combined with an

international law enforcement investigative and operational ef-

fort in collaboration with domestic police and investigative task

forces in each country. This is to ensure that a local decline in

illegal logging is not offset by increases elsewhere, as interna-

tional cartels move to new sources of illegal timber.

In the last five years, illegal logging has moved from direct

illegal logging to more advanced methods of concealment

and timber laundering. In this report more than 30 ways of

conducting illegal logging, laundering, selling and trading il-

legal logs are described. Primary methods include falsifica-

tion of logging permits, bribes to obtain logging permits (in

some instances noted as US$ 20–50,000 per permit), logging

beyond concessions, hacking government websites to obtain

transport permits for higher volumes or transport, laundering