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Sat Aug 30 16:16:07 SAST 2014

Liberia deal seeks to save West Africa’s forests

Reuters | 09 May, 2011 20:070 Comments
Finance Minister for Liberia Dr. Antoinette Sayeh (L)
Image by: PAUL J. RICHARDS

Liberia has signed a deal with the European Union promising to crack down on illegal logging on its territory, home to more than half of West Africa’s rainforests, a group linked to the accord said.

Ghana, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed similar deals last year ahead of an EU ban on imports of illegally harvested timber that takes effect in 2012.

The new deal tightened restrictions on logging, said the European Forest Institute, an EU-wide group that helps draft accords on illegal logging.

It also set out ways for Liberia to show its timber was legal, allowing it to continue trading with EU states, the groups added.

“The VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) defines what constitutes legal timber ... and sets up an assurance system to verify compliance and ensure that timber for export can be traced back to the source,” said the group in a statement.

Almost 45% of Liberia — about 4,3 million hectares — is still covered by tropical forest, the group added.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Liberian timber amid allegations former President Charles Taylor was using the industry to fund wars in the region. The ban was lifted in 2006 but logging has been slow to pick up.

“European consumers are increasingly sensitive to what they consume, and they want to avoid any ... complicity in spurring illegal timber harvests and contributing to tropical forest destruction,” said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, in a statement.

Some other African countries are seeking to gain carbon credits for protecting forest, under the U.N. scheme to reduce emissions from deforestation or degradation (REDD).

Gabon, in central Africa, banned raw exports last year and set up a climate council seeking a plan to gain carbon credits from its 80% remaining forest cover, using REDD.

The European Forest Institute said between 20 and 40% of wood production globally remained from illegal sources.

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