UK to ban illegal timber

The funky new coalition government in the UK appears ready to follow the US in criminalising the import of illegal timber. In the same way that many commentators see trade policies as more important to development than aid, so I think these kind of initiatives can have greater impacts on conservation than many on-the-ground projects. Although I do not have any firm figures to hand, anecdotal evidence that has reached me suggests the Lacey Act in the US has significant sharpened minds for anyone supplying timber products over there.

Two significant caveats apply:

(1) A lot of timber products imported to UK, US and other developed countries are put together in China and other Asian countries that now lay claim to be the world’s great factory. In order to maximise impact such legislation needs to incentivise secure labelling along the supply chain of wood products, which brings us to forest certification à la FSC.

(2) A lot of other timber products just go to China et al and never leave. The demand for such products is likely to outstrip the growth of nascent environmentalism in these countries for several decades.

These policies are therefore likely only to have an impact at the margin, and on specific timber products that are supplied direct to those countries with such legislation. Knock-on effects analogous to how vehicles emissions standards for California changed the global car industry are likely to be small and slow in coming.

The argument for on-the-ground conservation projects of the like which keep this blogger in business therefore remains. But I like the thinking behind legislation like this. What other policy changes in developed countries can we lobby for?

By focusing on such issues – where is the money? – the environmental movement has, in recent years, wised up a lot; keep up the good work folks!

Hat tip: Sound & Fair


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