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Government Barometer 2012

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Summary of results

We carried out our first ‘Government Barometer on Illegal logging and Trade’ in early 2004. It was a gauge of how committed EU member state governments were to implementing the FLEGT Action Plan agreed in 2003. Our 2012 barometer is the 5th edition, and comes after a four-year break. It assesses progress on three measures set out in the action plan:

  1. the FLEGT Regulation (which facilitates the import of licensed timber from producer countries which have negotiated a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the EU);
  2. development cooperation focused at addressing illegal logging in producer countries (through the VPA negotiations); and
  3. green public procurement.
It also assesses progress on a fourth, separate measure, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) which came about as a result of the FLEGT Action Plan. This will make it an offence to place illegal timber or listed wood products on the EU market.

The FLEGT Regulation needs to be in place before VPA-licensed timber can enter the EU. The first licensed shipments, according to some governments, are expected in 2012. The EUTR will come into force in March 2013. Various implementing measures need to be in place in 2012 to facilitate this. The other two measures covered by the barometer are ongoing. Read more on FLEGT here.

The 2012 barometer has four new questions, designed to assess progress on FLEGT and EUTR. The other questions remain unchanged. It’s therefore possible to compare assessment over all five Government Barometers on cross-departmental collaboration, public procurement and development cooperation support for the VPA process. Progress in each EU member state has been measured against a maximum score of 18.

In 2012, the main overall conclusion is that 17 out of 27 EU member states are failing to take sufficient action with regards to tackling the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and wood products. Of the remaining ten, some have improved their performance since 2007 and made good progress on implementing the regulations, but they all need to do more. The overall level of achievement against the commitments under the FLEGT Action Plan is still limited. Our conclusion is that after nine long years, EU member states are still not doing enough.

The weakest performers overall in 2012 (scoring 2 points or less) were Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Slovakia and Spain. Finland was the lowest-scoring country overall with 0 points. This was because it had nobody working on FLEGT at the time of the survey and nobody else who could provide a response. Germany, the Netherlands and the UK scored the highest, with 12 points each. However, this score still classifies as ‘further improvement needed’.

Comparable scores over the course of the barometer surveys (2004-2012) show that Belgium, France and Slovenia are the most improved. France and the UK scored the highest. The UK has been the most consistent high scorer (taking both the comparable scores, overall barometer results and the 2012 results), but from a good start it has become one of the slowest in terms of improving its performance.

As in past barometer exercises, the 2012 survey shows that countries perform poorly on questions assessing the effectiveness of national level implementation of measures such as public procurement policies that require legal and sustainable timber supply, and/or support for development cooperation. Exceptions are France and the UK which can demonstrate, to a limited extent, the impact of both public procurement and VPAs. But most countries appear to have done little to significantly progress in these areas. Member state actions at both national and international level are essential elements in the pan-EU movement to eliminate illegal logging and the trade in illegal timber and timber products within the EU. Actions being undertaken by the Commission and a few member states alone will not be sufficient. Each EU member state has to recognise the role it needs to play, and has to assume responsibility for fulfilling its part in the wider picture.

A key gap remains the failure by the EU to tackle the finance sector on its safeguards policies in relation to the timber industry. This was one of the measures set out in the original FLEGT Action Plan, which the barometer has not assessed. Early discussions focused on the use of money laundering legislation, but this does not seem to have progressed. As a minimum, financial institutions should also be required to adopt a responsible forest investment policy and do due diligence before investing in projects.

With regards to performance in the different areas, the overall results of the survey were as follows:

1. All EU member states need to ensure that the relevant government departments have a systematic, coordinated approach to deliver on their commitments under the European Union's Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade.
This is the only comparable area where there was a significant improvement since the last barometer exercise, when many countries still had no formal inter-departmental initiatives to tackle the FLEGT actions in an integrated and comprehensive way. In 2012, cross-departmental collaboration was generally very good: nine countries scored the maximum points and 13 were undertaking some form of cross-departmental collaboration. This improvement is doubtless down to the need for the relevant departments to coordinate on the FLEGT and EUTR regulations. Only Finland, Italy, Malta, Slovakia and Spain appear to have no cross-departmental collaboration. This is borne out by the fact that these five are also weak performers overall.

Given the complexity of the trade in illegal and unsustainable timber and wood products, it’s essential that government agencies continue to work together in and between all member states in a coordinated and comprehensive way, to ensure effective implementation not just of the regulations, but also measures such as legal, sustainable public procurement policies, the voluntary partnership agreements and other FLEGT commitments.

2. The FLEGT Regulation must be in place in each EU member state before the EU market is ready to receive FLEGT-licensed timber. The penalties and sanctions for those dealing in illegal timber and listed wood products from VPA countries must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
In 2012, only four countries – Belgium, Cyprus, Germany and Sweden – are ready to receive FLEGT-licensed timber and have effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties and sanctions in place. Twelve countries are making good progress, leaving seven countries weak on implementation of the FLEGT regulation and four unprepared (Estonia, Finland, Greece and Spain). Unfortunately, implementation of the VPA licensing agreements in producer countries is equally slow and although the first batch of licensed timber was expected late in 2011, it now looks like it will be the latter half of 2012.

3. Government - at a national, regional and local level - can play a critically important role by putting in place sustainable timber and wood product public procurement policies. Sustainable procurement policy is one area where member state public bodies can make a significant difference to reducing the EU footprint in illegal and unsustainable timber and wood products. The public sector in every EU country is a huge customer for timber and wood products. By proactively sourcing only timber and wood products from independently verified legal and sustainable sources, EU governments have the opportunity to set the market standard and demonstrate that positive sourcing policies, addressing the sustainability of procured products, can make a difference.

As such it is extremely disappointing that in 2012, not one country has a required commitment across all public institutions on legal and sustainable timber and wood product supply and can prove effective implementation. While there has been a slight improvement since 2007, as many as 11 countries still have no procurement policy in place at all and only seven are making good progress. Green public procurement is a key recommendation of the FLEGT Action Plan and is a government commitment that arose out of Rio and the Agenda 21 process 30 years ago. It remains a critically important step that all governments should take.

4. EU countries importing timber and wood products from countries with a high risk of illegal and unsustainable harvesting should be proactively supporting the EU's VPA negotiations in these countries.
In 2012, only six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands and, in particular, the UK) were actively involved in supporting the VPA process in FLEGT partner countries, as well as legality discussions in Russia – through the provision of resources and/or staff. Belgium and France have made a significant improvement in their performance under this issue compared to previous rounds. France, Germany and the UK are the only countries able to demonstrate (albeit based on only limited results) that the VPA negotiations are having a beneficial effect on forest governance in partner countries. Three – Belgium, Latvia and the Netherlands – are unable to do so. Germany and the Netherlands could be doing a lot more on the VPA process, as could Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

The VPAs are another key area under the FLEGT Action Plan where EU governments have a chance to make a big difference. NGO feedback on the VPA process is that there are clear, demonstrable benefits arising from the VPA negotiations in producer countries, particularly in key areas of governance such as delivering the possibility of creating transparency, capacity building of civil society, industry and governments at a national level, and facilitating the participation in decision-making by non-state actors. The ability to prove the positive impact of the VPA negotiations will only be answered adequately when better indicators of ‘forest governance’ have been determined and are properly monitored. This is being developed for all VPA countries, so there should be a marked improvement on this score in the next two years.

It’s surprising – particularly in light of the results of this survey, the discussions around reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) and global recognition of the critical importance of securing good governance in key timber producing countries – that in the last few months countries such as the Netherlands have actually pulled budget and staff from the VPAs, and that countries already mentioned are not doing more. See partnership agreements.

5. All EU member states need to ensure that the relevant EUTR measures for governments are in place by March 2013 to ensure proper control of those placing timber on the EU market. One of the foremost measures to be undertaken by the EU member states is to ensure that the penalties and sanctions for those dealing in illegal timber and listed wood products are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
In 2012, nine countries still need to put in place the necessary implementing measures in preparation for the EUTR coming into force in 2013. The rest are progressing to varying degrees. Only three countries are currently considering effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties and sanctions – these are Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Of the remaining 24, 11 are considering penalties and sanctions deemed by NGOs to be too weak nationally and 13 have yet to consider them at all. At this stage the European Commission is still developing implementation measures, so further progress and development of these is expected across all member states before 2013. But penalties and sanctions should already be in place.

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