WWF calls Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to better coordinate efforts to halt timber export of illegally logged forests
In May 2015, Chinese government announced a new forest sector reform which includes a plan to eventually phase out all commercial logging in Chinese native forests, by the year of 2020. Currently, around 50 million m3/year of timber is produced in such forests. In addition, the announced new policy mandates a reduction of logging volumes in secondary forests and forest plantations, by 20 percent.
Preceding this announcement, in April 2014, China’s Heilongjian, the most forested province of China located in the North-East and bordering Russia, launched a pilot program to ban all commercial logging in its native forests. This moratorium will be gradually implemented by other provinces across China.
Commenting these new initiatives, the experts of WWF Russia draw attention to the possibility of unintended consequences of these conservation initiatives for neighbouring Russian forests. It is likely that a new moratorium on logging in China will increase the amount of illegal logging in Russian Far East, given the growing China’s demand for timber products which cannot be met by logging in Chinese secondary forests alone. China will need to import even more round woods and sawn woods from other countries, including those with rampant illegal logging practices.
“In the last decade, the share of China among the importers of Russia’s Far Eastern timber products has gone up from 53 percent in 2004 to more than 80 percent in 2014. It is possible that new logging bans in China’s native forests will spur the demand for Russian unprocessed timber, including valuable hardwoods such as Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash protected by CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora,” says Elena Feditchkina, forest program expert at WWF Russia Amur branch.
While forest trade between Russia and China is an important economic sector, there are significant concerns about the legality and sustainability of this economic relationship. WWF Russia estimates, in the “Illegal logging in Russian Far East: Global demand and Taiga Destruction” (HYPER-LINK) that as much as half the oak exported from the Russian Far East to China is of illegal origin.
Therefore, while supporting the initiative of Chinese government to eventually phase out logging in native forests, WWF Russia call Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to consolidate its efforts to halt illegal logging within Russia and with Chinese colleagues.
“Without coordinating the efforts to combat illegal logging, the adoption of new forest protection initiatives in one country is likely to drive illegal logging in high conservation values forests (HCVF) in the other country, given that Russian and Chinese forests are linked via timber trade,” notes Brian Milakovsky, forest program coordinator at WWF Russia Amur branch.