EU forest firms to revise certification plan

Industry group "disappointed" by NGO attacks, pledges to sharpen statutes

A fledgling industry-based forest certification organisation must "substantially revise" its draft guidelines if it is to become a credible alternative to existing bodies, Finnish and British delegates to a meeting unveiling the scheme before an international audience have told ENDS Daily.

At the same time, they said that the meeting had succeeded in its main aim of "putting the Pan-European Forest Certification (PEFC) scheme firmly on the political map." An "extremely valuable" presentation from the head of the global Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the only existing international forest certification scheme, was also welcomed as "opening up the possibility of future dialogue" between the two organisations.

"The message is that we must clearly concentrate on better developing forest management standards and establishing good verification of chain of custody (from forest to end-product)," said a spokesperson for the Finnish Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, which has been one of the prime movers behind the scheme. The spokesperson stressed that the PEFC was still "very much in its very early stages," although plans for its formal launch in Paris at the end of June are firmly on track. The spokesperson added that they wanted to avoid a situation where a multiplicity of competing labels confused customers.

Fifteen national forestry organisations from around Europe signed a letter of intent establishing the PEFC at the meeting with more than 200 delegates, which ended yesterday in Wurzburg, Germany. An interim board was elected, chaired by Henri Plauche-Gillon of France, with the presidents of the Finnish and German national forestry councils as deputies. The organisation hopes to give a particular voice to Europe's private forest industry, which it claims is under-represented in the FSC, but says it has left two seats on the board empty, with a view to assigning them to NGOs and trade unions.

Delegates confessed their disappointment, however, at a "polarisation" between the PEFC and environmental NGOs, who strongly attacked the industry initiative just before the meeting (ENDS Daily 19 April). Several European NGOs involved in the forestry sector originally threatened to boycott the meeting, but representatives of the World Wide Fund for Nature's Brussels office and the umbrella organisation Fern in the end gave a forceful presentation criticising the definitions of forest management and chain of custody contained in the PEFC draft statutes.

They also maintained that, by failing to give sufficient weight to NGOs and by discriminating against countries outside Europe, these threatened to discredit the wider movement to establish sustainable forest management movement.

Follow Up:
Finnish Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, tel: +358 913151.

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