In a definitive step in the right direction, Indonesia has been issued a new license by the EU that will make it the world’s first country to sell timber under new environmental standards.
It was announced yesterday that Indonesia had qualified for the world’s first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license, meaning that from November, timber that does not carry this certificate will be prohibited from trading in the EU and consumers can rest assured they are buying from legitimate, audited factories and forests.
The license is part of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan, which it has been trying to implement for over a decade, to stop the flood of illegally felled timber into the EU and contribute to sustainable forest management worldwide. This is also one of the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Indonesia has developed its own timber legal verification scheme, demonstrating its intent to combat the illegal logging that is rife across its forests, which was key to being issued the license.
Indonesia’s struggle against corruption, illegal logging, and deforestation is well documented. Between 2003 and 2014, the estimated commercial value of “undeclared logging” was between $60.7 billion and $81.4 billion, according to a study by the country’s anti-corruption commission. The study also claimed that official figures captured for timber production was only actually about a quarter of the wood harvested during that period.
Under the new system, the Indonesia government will only issue licenses and certificates to producers who use wood it believes comply with the strict environmental, social, and economic laws. An independent third party monitored by environmental groups will issue the licenses.
"Indonesia has taken important steps to strengthen forest governance, combat illegal logging, modernize its forest sector, and improve business practices," said Robert Simpson of the UN’s Food and Agriculture FLEGT program.
"In addition to helping to limit the environmental damage caused by illegal logging, demonstrating timber legality opens the door to promoting the sustainable livelihoods of forest communities and increasing access to international wood markets," he added.
There are currently five more countries – Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic – who are working with the EU towards their own FLEGT license and a further nine wanting to open negotiations. These 15 countries make up 24 percent of the world's tropical forests and supply up to three-quarters of the EU's tropical timber imports.
Aware that this is only the beginning of what could be an uphill battle, those involved appear both optimistic and pragmatic.
"We do believe the system is credible," said Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU mission to Indonesia in a statement. "But today is the start date, not the finish."