Illegal Deforestation & Logging

Illegal Deforestation & Logging

Illegal deforestation and logging is the harvesting of timber in contravention of laws and regulations.1 It also includes clearing forests for plantations, such as palm oil.2 Globally, the trade in wood and paper products originating from illegal deforestation is worth USD $50 to $100 billion annually.3

The illicit practice is taking a severe environmental toll by contributing to global warming, climate change and threatening ecosystems. It also damages the economic wellbeing of local communities and environmentally responsible companies. Thirdly, governments lose out financially, both from lost revenues and the cost of challenging illegal logging.4

Illegal deforestation and logging around the world

Illegal deforestation and logging is most common in countries with poor governance and law enforcement capacity.5 The boreal forests of Russia’s Far East and rainforests in the tropics are particularly vulnerable.6 It is often facilitated by organised crime networks, working in conjunction with corrupt government officials.7 The degradation it causes to the forest  “creates social conflict with Indigenous and local populations and leads to violence, crime and human rights abuses”.8

Legislation in the US, EU, Australia and Japan has helped stem the volume of illegal imports into these countries. However, emerging markets that are less sensitive to sustainability issues, such as China, Vietnam and India, continue to maintain demand.9 

Illegal deforestation and climate change

Deforestation is happening worldwide at an alarming rate; an area of forest the size of the UK is destroyed annually.10 Since trees absorb and store carbon as they grow, cutting them down ultimately releases this greenhouse gas.11 In this way, deforestation accounts for at least 10 per cent of all global warming emissions.12 

Illegal deforestation is a major part of this problem. In Brazil, 60 to 80 per cent of all logging is illegal. In Indonesia, the proportion is as high as 90 per cent.13 Peru and Myanmar have similarly high figures at 80 and 85 per cent respectively.14 

It is also a significant issue in Africa. Between 1994 and 2004, 50 per cent of logging in Cameroon was illegal.15 The rate is nearly 65 per cent in the Democratic Republic of Congo.16 To tackle climate change, illegal logging must be prevented.

Economic repercussions of illegal logging

Approximately USD $5 billion in tax revenue for governments is lost every year because of illegal logging.17 In many cases, it is poorer nations that lose out. For example, illegal timber accounts for over 70 per cent of the timber exports of Peru, Bolivia and the DRC.18

There are inevitable knock-on effects for responsible logging companies. By evading regulations and taxes, illegal deforestation floods the market with cheap wood. It depresses global prices for timber by 7 to 16 per cent, depending on the product. The resultant reduction in the price of wood commodities costs the legitimate industry USD $10 billion annually.19

The damage caused by illegal deforestation

In short, illegal deforestation is responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions. The accompanying degradation of forests around the world destroys habitats for vulnerable animals. It is a threat to biodiversity.

Also, it takes money away from legal logging companies that respect regulations in place to protect forests. This costs the governments of various developing countries billions in revenue every year. In addition, trying to prevent the nefarious practice stretches limited public funds thin in these countries.

Sources

  1. ec.europa.eu. (n.d.). Illegal Logging – Forests – Environment – European Commission. [online] Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/illegal_logging.htm#:~:text=Illegal%20logging%20is%20the%20harvesting [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
  2. Panda.org. (2020). WWF – Illegal logging. [online] Available at: https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/forests_practice/deforestation_causes2/illegal_logging/?.
  3. Wallen, K.E. (n.d.). Global timber trafficking harms forests and costs billions of dollars – here’s how to curb it. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/global-timber-trafficking-harms-forests-and-costs-billions-of-dollars-heres-how-to-curb-it-93115 [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
  4. Panda.org. (2020). WWF – Illegal logging. [online] Available at: https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/forests_practice/deforestation_causes2/illegal_logging/?.
  5. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  6. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  7. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  8. Greenpeace Australia Pacific. (2020). Deforestation and illegal logging threaten the world’s forests. [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/what-we-do/protecting-forests/threats/.
  9. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  10. correspondent, F.H.E. (2019). World losing area of forest the size of the UK each year, report finds. The Guardian. [online] 12 Sep. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/12/deforestation-world-losing-area-forest-size-of-uk-each-year-report-finds#:~:text=The%20rate%20of%20loss%20has [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
  11. WWF (2010). Deforestation and Forest Degradation | Threats | WWF. [online] World Wildlife Fund. Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation.
  12. Union of Concerned Scientists (2012). Tropical Deforestation and Global Warming | Union of Concerned Scientists. [online] www.ucsusa.org. Available at: https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/tropical-deforestation-and-global-warming#:~:text=When%20trees%20are%20cut%20down.
  13. Greenpeace Australia Pacific. (2020). Deforestation and illegal logging threaten the world’s forests. [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/what-we-do/protecting-forests/threats/.
  14. World Wildlife Fund. (2019). Stopping Illegal Logging | Initiatives | WWF. [online] Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/stopping-illegal-logging.
  15. Greenpeace Australia Pacific. (2020). Deforestation and illegal logging threaten the world’s forests. [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org.au/what-we-do/protecting-forests/threats/.
  16. World Wildlife Fund. (2019). Stopping Illegal Logging | Initiatives | WWF. [online] Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/stopping-illegal-logging.
  17. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  18. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.
  19. Yale.edu. (2012). Illegal Logging | Global Forest Atlas. [online] Available at: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/forest-use-logging/logging/illegal-logging.

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