On October 8-9, 2018, GTTN members met with representatives from the European Commission, the US Government, ITTO, NGOs, scientists, competent authorities, and the private sector at the five-year celebration of the implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the Thünen Centre of Competence on the origin of timber.
Scientists from the Thünen Institute, which provides scientific support to GTTN, presented genetic and wood anatomy methods for wood species identification (and identification of origin, in the case of wood DNA analysis). In 2017, Thünen tested samples of flooring (253), plywood (182), paper (75), and furniture (209), which are all products that need to be controlled according to the EUTR. They checked for CITES protected species in samples from around 700 wooden instruments for the 2017 music industry trade fair. 3750 samples of charcoal from 250 types were also analysed to prove claims for tropical timber.
The US Forest Service, a key GTTN collaborator, presented the Arbor Harbor initiative: a reference system on trees and their global trade. The future of this project is to link it to wood identification tools such as DART-TOFMS.
The information about the different methods was complemented by a presentation on stable isotopes by Agroisolab, another GTTN partner. Markus Boner described how important this technique is in determining the origin of wood.
Although there is significant progress in the application, the EUTR implementation seems uneven in all EU member states. Dörte Pardo-Lopez from the European Commission explained that a common understanding of what effective, dissuasive, and proportionate measures and penalties are is still needed. How it can be ensured is reflected in the different legal systems and in practice. Furthermore, Thünen researcher Dr. Margret Köthke presented a market survey on the impact of EUTR in Germany. The results showed that many small companies and companies outside the timber sector are still not properly aware of the EUTR and its implications.
An argument that was raised by some participants was whether EUTR/FLEGT were positively perceived – or as a burden. The common ground centered on awareness as a catalyst that leads to VPA and making good business. Deanne Hughes, from the UK competent authority (Office for Product Safety and Standards), invited businesses that are required to comply with the EUTR to join a LinkedIn group to ask questions and share solutions. Members of this group can also use the forum to advertise workshops.
During the conference, all participants agreed that illegal logging continues to be a major concern. EUTR and FLEGT have contributed to start tackling aspects of the problem. However, different factors such as forest transformation (e.g. soy and palm plantations) and deforestation still negatively impact timber producing countries. Thus, there is consensus for the upcoming EU Action Plan on deforestation.
NEPCon, a Danish non-profit organization, presented the Sourcing Hub with a comprehensive explanation of the Timber Legality Risk Assessment tool. This platform helps companies evaluate and manage the risks in their supply chain.
Finally, Gerhard Dieterle, Executive Director of ITTO, presented a report on the potential of forest for achieving NDC and reducing emissions through afforestation, reforestation, restoration, sustainable forest management and substitution. This study used simulations for carbon sequestration and substitution effects in the tropical forest.
All the presentations and a report from Thünen Institute can be seen here.