Memorandum from The Woodland Trust
The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity
to respond to this inquiry. The Trust is the UK's leading charity
solely dedicated to the conservation of native and broadleaved
woodland. We achieve our purposes by acquiring sites for planting
and protection and through advocacy of the importance of protecting
ancient woodland, enhancing its biodiversity, expanding woodland
cover and increasing public enjoyment. We own over 1,100 sites
across the country, covering around 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres)
and we have 250,000 members and supporters.
We will address questions (a), (c), (d) and
(e) posed by the Committee:
Government timber procurement, the
Sustainable Timber Initiative, and the development of guidance
on timber procurement for local authorities.
The development of the forest certification
system for domestically produced timber.
The development and implementation
of sustainable forestry indicators.
Progress made at the Ancient Forest
Summit at the Convention of Biological Diversity's 6th Conference
of the Parties in the Hague.
1. Government timber procurement, the Sustainable
Timber Initiative, and the development of guidance on timber procurement
for local authorities
1.1 The Woodland Trust was encouraged to
hear the Prime Minister confirm the commitment to ensure that
the Government would buy timber that comes from sustainable resources
in his speech on the environment to WWF in March 2001 when he
said: "we have already promised that as a Government we will
only purchase timber from legal and sustainable sources".
We were also pleased to hear the Secretary of State for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs announce in her speech to the Green Alliance
on 24 October 2001 that there would be "a new cross-Government
group to look at how we can use Government procurement to deliver
sustainable development." However,
we remain concerned at the slow rate of progress in this area,
and the lack of adequate mechanisms to ensure that this happens.
1.2 The only way to be certain that timber
comes from sustainable sources is to ensure it comes from a certified
forest. Certification (dealt with in more detail in section 2
below) is a rigorous system of independently auditing standards
of forest management to verify that agreed environmental, social
and economic standards are being met. We are concerned to see
that certain Government departments believe that they are buying
certified timber, but are not checking the credibility of contractors
claims that the timber that they are providing is certified by
a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited scheme. The claims
made by Greenpeace about the purchase of timber from unsustainable
sources to refurbish the Cabinet Office suggests significant work
still needs to be done to ensure that there are mechanisms in
place to ensure that officers check contractors' claims about
providing certified material. The "chain of custody"
from planting to end-use must be secure and it is necessary for
purchasers to check that this is the case.
1.3 We are also concerned that in the fallout
from the Greenpeace protest it was revealed that "the contract
used with the main contractor for the refurbishment of 22 Whitehall
(comprising the Ripley and Kirkland Buildings) did not specify
that all timber should be supplied from certifiable sustainably
managed sources upon which certificates are to be made available"
and only the doors and door frames were required to be from certified
and renewable sources. This
suggests a lack of commitment within the Cabinet Office's procurement
policy with something of a token gesture being made towards certification.
In our view, there should have been a commitment that all of the
timber used in the refurbishment was from certified sources.
1.4 There is a need to increase the commitment
of procurement officers within Government to purchasing sustainable
timber. Although Green Ministers have a responsibility for ensuring
that their department's procurement policy takes into account
environmental concerns, we believe that this work should be given
more priority which would lead to firmer commitment to the process
from procurement officers. The Green Ministers should be tasked
with ensuring that sustainable timber procurement is quickly given
a much higher priority throughout Government, which should in
turn help to speed up the process. We would like to see any Government
department undertaking high profile refurbishment and new building
projects to be sure that the chain of custody between forest and
timber supplier can be authenticated and for this policy to be
promoted to public bodies and businesses to raise the profile
of timber procurement as an issue, both within and outside Government.
1.5 The Sustainable Timber Initiative should
also be rolled out to all public bodies and local government across
the United Kingdom as a matter of urgency. A few councils have
shown it is possible to adopt sustainable construction principles;
for example, Horsham District Council is committed to build using
timber from sustainable resources certified as FSC or equivalent.
DTLR and DEFRA should work together with these councils to produce
a best practice guide for local authorities and other public bodies
on sustainable timber procurement and it should be made clear
by senior figures in Government that this is not an optional add-on
but a priority for all such bodies. While we recognise that Government
procurement rules for public bodies cannot as they stand favour
a given certification system such as FSC, it is possible to create
a criteria-based policy that can ensure that some certification
systems such as the Pan European Certification System (PEFC) which
are less stringent can be excluded. Procurement rules can also
specify those suppliers who have breached existing regulations
on importing timber and exclude them.
2. The development of the forest certification
system for domestically produced timber
2.1 We believe that the only way to determine
what are sustainable sources of timber is through independent
certification. Certification is one of only a very few mechanisms
which can deliver sustainable development in a meaningful and
verifiable manner. It not only delivers sustainability within
the specific operations of the forest sector, but it also ensures
that forestry's contribution to other areas of environmental,
social and economic policy such as urban regeneration, rural development,
integration of forestry with agriculture, health and welfare,
is based on sustainable foundations.
2.2 Given that the Government has indicated
that it would like to see practical steps to enhance sustainable
management of forests addressed at Johannesburg, we believe that
setting a target for bringing woodland in Britain into some form
of FSC accredited certification would stimulate debate and action.
A goal of at least 50 per cent within five-10 years would seem
to an achievable target, given that approximately 35 per cent
of woodland in the UK is now certified (most of this is a result
of Forest Enterprise's accreditation under the UK Woodland Assurance
Crucial to achieving this will be that the current review of support
for management of existing woods in England and the equivalent
processes in Wales and Scotland provide the necessary redirection
of resources to support the costs of certification for private
woodland owners and enable new entrants to benefit from certification.
It would also be worth considering the extent to which government
support for woodland should be dependent on woodland owners achieving
2.3 The adoption of such a target at home
would better equip the Government to argue for the adoption of
a challenging global target for expanding the area of forests
certified under schemes recognised by the FSC.
3. The development and implementation of
sustainable forestry indicators
3.1 The Trust welcomes the development of
the sustainable forestry indicators at a UK level. Clearly their
development will assist UK forestry's contribution to sustainable
development in the run up to Johannesburg, but the development
of these indicators should not be rushed by the onset of the World
Summit on Sustainable Development given their far reaching importance
for the UK forestry sector.
3.2 Although we are encouraged by a significant
number of the indicators currently undergoing a second round of
consultation, we believe that concerns over the quality of available
data should not preclude the inclusion of indicators that have
an important role to play in relation to sustainable forestry.
We are especially concerned that this has happened with the indicator
on "Protected areas", which featured in the first draft
of indicators published last year, but is not in the version that
is currently out for consultation.
3.3 The Trust believes that the reality
of environmental change, particularly climate change, means it
is important that forest biodiversity indicators adopt a landscape
scale perspective, rather than simply focussing at a site and
species level, as is the tendency at present. We believe there
is scope for improvement of the current suite of indicators in
3.4 A strong feature of the present set
of draft indicators is the expanded section on "People and
forests". The Trust believes that connecting people with
the natural environment is a key component of sustainable development
and accordingly it is important that social forestry indicators
4. Progress made at the Ancient Forest Summit
at the Convention of Biological Diversity's 6th Conference of
the Parties in the Hague
4.1 We are disappointed at the lack of a
clear direction on forestry that resulted from April's Sixth Meeting
of the Conference of the Parties the 1992 Convention of Biological
Diversity. We hope that as forestry has been identified as a key
component of the UK's contribution to Johannesburg the Government
will be committed to a more ambitious contribution by the sector
to the process. The UK is a leader in certain areas when it comes
to forestry, particularly certification. However, we are failing
in other key areas such as protection of our ancient woodland
resource (land continuously wooded since at least AD1600). The
Trust and WWF-UK recently produced a report showing that we are
still losing ancient woods which are our equivalent of the rainforest
at an alarming rate, indeed we are aware of over 150 ancient woods
currently under threat and we fear that this is just the tip of
the iceberg. These woods are not adequately protected by felling
licenses nor by the system of site designation as only 14 per
cent of our ancient woods are covered by Site of Special Scientific
Interest status. We cannot afford to continue to lose our ancient
woods. Ancient woodland is irreplaceable as it contains centuries
of ecological evolution and we therefore need to provide it with
stronger protection. We believe that it would lend significant
credibility to the UK's claim to be a leader in forest policy
if the Government took concerted action to protect our own dwindling
forest resource. This would allow the UK to argue the case for
protection of ancient forests at a global level more strongly
than we can at present.
4.2 We believe therefore, that in the run
up to Johannesburg, a key commitment that should be made by the
Government is that ancient woodland will be protected from development.
One practical way to signal the Government's intent to do something
about the loss would be to raise sustainable development indicator
S11 (Area of ancient woodland in GB) from its status as one of
the Government's 150 core indicators to the status of a headline
indicator in Quality of Life Counts, the strategy for measuring
progress towards sustainable development in the UK. This would
provide the Government with a much stronger negotiating position
when it comes to recommending good practice to developing countries
about the need to protect their forests by first "putting
our own house in order."
5.1 The Government has shown a welcome willingness
in principle to address the issue of the need for certification
and sustainable timber procurement policies but the Trust is concerned
that this enthusiasm is not reflected in practice throughout the
Government's procurement systems. There is a need for education
of procurement officers of the issues, and training to help them
deliver on the commitment. We would also like to see moves to
ensure that the "chain of custody" from planting to
end-use is secure so that users can be sure that certified timber
is in fact from sustainable sources.
5.2 The UK has a lot to offer on the international
stage in terms of its experience of developing UKWAS and the achievement
of a relatively high level of forest certification in this country,
however, there are still great strides to made in other areas.
Protection of our dwindling ancient woodland resource is a pressing
issue that should be addressed by Government to ensure that the
UK better placed to lead by example on the world stage.
4 Rt Hon Tony Blair, MP, "Environment; the Next
Steps"-Speech to WWF-UK conference, 6 March 2001. Back
Rt Hon Margaret Beckett, MP, speech to ERM/Green Alliance Environment
Forum, 24 October 2001. Back
Official Report, 19 April 2002: 1252W. Back
Woodland Trust and WWF-UK (2002) Wildwood to concrete jungle,
available from the Trust, or downloadable from www.woodland-trust.org.uk/policy/publications.htm Back