Illegal timber found on government building site - again!

Posted by admin — 12 July 2006 at 8:00am - Comments

Greenpeace volunteers scale Admiralty Arch

Stop us if you've heard this one before, but the government has been caught with illegal timber on one of its own building sites. Sounds familiar? It should, because this is the third time it's happened in four years. If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny.

In the early hours of this morning, Greenpeace volunteers climbed to the top of Admiralty Arch in the south-west corner of Trafalgar Square where renovation work is currently being done on the building. Commuters and tourists were greeted by the sight of a huge banner that read, "Repeat offender! Blair's trashed another rainforest!" while more volunteers attempted to remove some of the offending material, namely plywood containing hardwoods from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.

From the top
Read Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale's weblog on Guardian Unlimited.

In addition, a representative from Papua New Guinea, Sam Moko, will personally deliver a piece of the plywood to 10 Downing Street with a demand for Tony Blair to stop fuelling the destruction of his forest home. Earlier this year, Brian Baring, another landowner from Papua New Guina, toured Europe to ask ministers and timber companies to ban the trade in illegal timber that is destroying the forests he grew up in.

The building houses both the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, and is just the latest in a series of government building blunders. In 2002, we occupied Cabinet Office rooms where sapele wood, logged illegally in the rainforests of Cameroon, was being used. Then in 2003 it was the turn of the new Home Office after we found more dodgy plywood, this time from Indonesia's rainforests.

These cock-ups have all happened under Blair's leadership so the blame falls squarely at his feet, not least because it was his own government who in 2000 introduced a timber procurement policy to "actively seek" to buy legal and sustainable timber.

If this policy was strengthened and enforced, it would have a massive effect on the UK timber industry. Central government buys up to 20 per cent of all timber in the country and with the broader public sector this climbs to around 40 percent. So that's not just a few planks we're talking about but large quantities of wood going into public building projects and who knows how much of that actually falls within policy guidelines?

But back to the Arch, where we have identified tropical hardwood plywood, manufactured in China, being used as hoardings on site. Both these species are almost exclusively sourced from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea where illegal logging is rampant.

In October last year, we highlighted this illegal rainforest plywood in the UK by dumping one tonne of it outside of Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The absence of credible proof of either its legality or sustainability led many European timber traders to suspend trading this product. By using this timber, Blair is a partner in forest crime - read our new crime file for all the details.

None of this, however, is illegal under UK law. The only thing that will stop the UK's complicit involvement in rainforest destruction is to ban all such illegal timber imports and promote the use of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC 'tree tick' logo is the only way to be sure that wood comes from environmental and socially responsible sources, not just for garden furniture and other household items, but wholesale timber as well.

About Earth Lady

Coordinator of the North Kent group and a Garden Design student

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