Global NGOs appeal to Japan to address illegal timber trade

Environmental activists have appealed to Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to address weaknesses in its new law, in keeping with its international commitments to halt the trade in illegal timber.

In a joint letter, 18 international NGOs highlighted weaknesses in Japan’s new law intended to stop the trade in illegal timber:

“Japan’s recent promulgation of the Law to Promote the Distribution and Use of Legally Logged Wood on May 20th recognizes these shortcomings, but falls far short of what is necessary to tackle the illegal timber trade.  By requiring only the companies that voluntarily register with the Government to have measures to ensure the legality of the timber they buy, companies that choose not to participate can continue to deal in illegal timber with impunity.

As such, Japan’s new law fails to meet the standards already adopted by its G7 peers which explicitly prohibit the trade in illegal timber and impose hefty penalties for violations.”

The letter also suggested that laws should be enacted to require all companies to exercise due diligence and verify the legality of wood imported into Japan. It also called for close monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of the law to ensure illegal timber does not enter the supply chain. 

Illegal logging hinders global sustainable development and accounts for over 20% of the global timber trade and between 50 to 90% of logging in key tropical countries. It also fuels international crime and generates over US$30 billion in criminal proceeds a year.

Japan is the world’s fourth largest buyer of wood products and a major market for illegal timber. Recent estimates indicate 12% of Japan’s timber imports are at high risk of being illegal, according to a 2014 Chatham House report. In 2006, Japan established a policy prohibiting public procurement of illegal timber but it did not apply to 95% of Japan’s timber market. Standards for verifying legality are also weak.