Report says governments, pressure groups and private sector all share credit for protecting extra 17 million hectares of tropical rainforest.

Efforts to tackle illegal destruction of the world's rainforests have been a success, according to a new report that details a significant fall in unauthorised logging.

The study, by the U.K.-based international affairs think tank Chatham House and released on Thursday, says illegal logging has dropped by between 50 and 75 per cent across Cameroon, Indonesia and the Brazilian Amazon over the last decade; globally it has dropped by one-fifth since 2002.

The study credits actions taken by governments and pressure groups for the improvement, as well as greater responsibility across the private sector.

Sam Lawson, associate fellow at Chatham House and lead author of the report, said: “Up to a billion of the world's poorest people are dependent on forests, and reductions in illegal logging are helping to protect their livelihoods.” The fall in illegal logging, if continued, could save billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and help the fight against global warming, the report says.

The change over the last decade has seen 17m hectares of forest saved from degradation, preventing the release of 1.2 bn tonnes of CO2 emissions. Viewed another way, if the trees saved were legally logged and sold, this could bring an extra $6.5bn in additional income to the forest nations.

Stephen O'Brien, the U.K.'s international development minister, said: “In the world's poorest countries, illegal logging fuels corruption and results in billions of pounds in lost revenue every year. For the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who depend on forests for their livelihood, curbing illegal logging means vital sources of income remain protected. This groundbreaking report sets out the success stories brought about through international efforts in reducing illegal logging, which encourages us all to pursue these efforts further.” In 2000, the U.K., U.S., Japan, France and Netherlands imported more than 20 million cubic metres of illegally logged timber. By 2008, that dropped to 17 million cubic metres.

Although illegal logging has declined, it remains a major problem, the report says. Where progress has already been made, additional gains are likely to be increasingly hard to achieve. A new approach will be needed to halt completely the illegal timber trade, it adds.

Serves to reinforce

The report, which compared records of wood imports to legal exports, says: “If they are to be effective, mechanisms to encourage developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation will require secure control and sound governance of forest resources. Efforts to tackle illegal logging and improve forest governance have already proved to be successful and cost-effective, and it is essential that the climate change agenda for forests serves to reinforce this response, rather than distract from it.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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