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EC commissions study on certification and verification schemes

The January-March 2020  Briefing  Note from the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP/WCMC) reports that the European Commission (EC) has commissioned a Study on Certification and Verification Schemes. This is targeted at CAs and operators, and will have a particular focus on forest and wood-based product certification and verification schemes in the context of EUTR implementation. 

The UNEP-WCMC also reports that the FLEGT/EUTR Expert Group meeting confirmed its earlier conclusions that it is not possible for EU operators to meet the requirements of the EUTR importing timber from Myanmar. The Expert Group heard an update on ongoing EU cooperation with Myanmar authorities and stakeholders. But the conclusion was that ‘it is not possible to take the basic steps necessary for exercising due diligence for wood harvested in Myanmar’. 

Competent Authorities at the meeting also upheld previous Expert Group conclusions that the risk of illegally harvested timber entering the supply chain in Brazil was still not negligible and importers needed to subject Brazilian material to ‘adequate risk mitigation measures’. 

Other news includes the EC’s release of its fifth report on EU and EEA CA EUTR compliance checks and penalties imposed by EU member states. It is based on survey responses from 25 CAs.

The Briefing Note news additionally includes a report on a fact finding mission by Thai authority and timber trade representatives to Germany to learn more about EUTR implementation, and the Finnish CA starting to collect origin/species samples from operators as part of inspection routines. 

Covered too is the seizure of timber from Myanmar in the Netherlands resulting from a joint Dutch/Czech Republic investigation and a Dutch court ruling upholding administrative measures taken by the country’s CA, the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), against two operators. The latter had been charged with placing Myanmar teak on the Dutch market without undertaking sufficient due diligence. 

The Swedish CA is also reported to have notified importers and traders of teak on the risks of importing teak from Myanmar.

In its Illegal Logging & Trade section, the Briefing Note reports on an investigation by Austrian news Media Addendum and NGO Earthsight into imports of illegally harvested oak from Ukraine by Austrian flooring producers and onward sale of the finished flooring to the UK. 

It also covers a report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) into trafficking of mukula rosewood from Zambia, in breach of a harvest moratorium and export ban. 

EUTR sanctions more consistent, reports ClientEarth

In the editorial of its March 2019-March 2020 online EUTR News, environmental law charity Client Earth maintains that, while ‘a number of gaps in EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) implementation remain’, many EU member states are applying its sanctions more consistently. 

The organisation said that enforcement of the Regulation, which has now been in force for a decade, has continued to develop in the last two years.

“2018 was a peak year when it comes to the number of checks performed on both domestic and importing operators by Competent Authorities (CA) since applicability of the EUTR [began],” it said. “2019 saw some of the resulting enforcement action from these checks, as well as more than 171 substantiated concerns received by CAs in the first half of the year.”

Among remaining EUTR challenges, said ClientEarth, is the need for increased controls on timber operators, budget and capacity allocation within CAs, and efforts to ‘tackle shifts in the import routes of illegally sourced timber’.

In the light of the European Commission’s acknowledgement that its objective to reduce gross tropical deforestation by 50% by 2020 was ‘unlikely to be met’, ClientEarth welcomed the EC’s ‘Roadmap for the Fitness Check of the EUTR and FLEGT Regulation’ and its Impact Assessment on deforestation. 

“These initiatives pave the way for a detailed examination of existing regulatory frameworks in the EU and present opportunities to reinforce that framework with new, robust regulatory and non-regulatory measures,” said ClientEarth.

This edition of its newsletter covers the range of EUTR and related developments over the last 12 months. These also include the issuing of a formal notice for misapplication of the Regulation to Romania, the conviction of UK and French companies for breaching the EUTR,  publication of a report by Forest Trends on links between EU forest products trade and EUTR enforcement and the WWF’s Enforcement Review of the EUTR 2018-19.

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