The UK Statutory Instrument 2013 No. 233 has been in force now for over a year. This transposed the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) into UK law. The NMO (the UK authority implementing the regulation) has, so far, taken a collaborative approach with regard to the timber industry with Michael Kearney (Project Manager at NMO) attending many industry meetings and enforcement officers visiting companies with an aim to share advice and best practice.
In November 2013 Michael Kearney confirmed that no action had been taken against timber companies during the initial enforcement programme but that the NMO was now moving on to target companies and products based on risk. The NMO has stated it will take proportionate actions where appropriate and support those seeking to comply. Operators must implement the necessary due diligence system or be at risk of prosecution.
This shift is emphasis from education to enforcement has come at a time when pressure is building from observers to ensure that this legislation actually has the desired effect.
Last year the Panorama programme Panorama’s Jungle Outlaws: The Chainsaw Trail showed illegal timber from the Congolese rainforest entering Western Europe highlighting how the EU Timber Regulation is failing to stop illegal wood reaching Europe.
Greenpeace have also highlighted the current inadequacies. On the 8th of January, Greenpeace symbolically seized an illegal import of logs coming from Congo, in the French port of Caen. This month Greenpeace marked the first anniversary of the introduction of the legislation , by highlighting several cases where imports of illegal timber had occurred. “The EU Timber Regulation was a welcome new legislation last March, but the first year of its mandate has demonstrated that governments and Competent Authorities really have to step up and ensure that proper enforcement of the law is possible,” said Danielle Van Oijen, Greenpeace Netherlands forest campaigner.
This anniversary is also significant for operators who have met the challenges of the legislation and implemented a due diligence system. According to official guidance, it is important that an operator using its own due diligence system should evaluate that system at regular intervals to ensure that those responsible are following the procedures that apply to them and the desired outcome is being achieved. Good practice suggests this should be conducted annually. So this anniversary may mark the need to evaluate the system
With the NMOs commitment to enforce the law combined with pressure from NGOs the coming months could see an increase in actions taken by the NMO against those failing to meet the requirements of the EUTR.