In view of the entry into force of the new European regulations on ‘zero deforestation’, scheduled for the end of 2024, the annual general meeting of Atibt (Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux), held on 2 June – during which nine new members were confirmed – was an opportunity for the association’s members, partners and networks to discuss how to raise the profile of sustainable management of tropical forests, in particular through certification and incentive measures. Thanks to these actions, the threshold of 10 million hectares certified as sustainably managed should be crossed in the Congo basin by 2025.
“Illegal logging of tropical timber causes significant environmental and social damage, as well as unfair competition to companies that adopt responsible practices. For this reason, Atibt is closely monitoring efforts to combat the illegal exploitation of tropical timber, which can spread throughout the entire distribution chain, from harvesting to timber trade, via transport and processing“.
In Gabon, Atibt works in collaboration with the authorities and industry to implement mechanisms to combat illegal logging.
In particular, the association supports the revision of the Forestry Code, the introduction of the national timber traceability and legality control system, as well as innovative solutions such as e-governance and the introduction of the Early Warning System.
In the Republic of Congo:
The WRI-funded Open Timber Portal (OTP), which aims to train and support forestry companies in sharing their legal documents on the Open Timber Portal (OTP);
The EU-funded Support to the Private Sector (ASP) Congo project, which aims to strengthen Professional Associations (PAs) in the forestry sector in Congo so that they can help improve forest governance in favour of sustainable, inclusive and more transparent management of forest resources.
The Support to the Private Sector (ASP) Green Pact Cameroon project, launched in early 2023, which aims to improve the performance of forestry companies in Cameroon and develop the national timber market so that it is oriented towards the purchase of sustainable timber.
Finally, more generally, as part of the fight against illegal timber, Atibt, with the support of Form International, manages and enhances the website www.timbertradeportal.com, an essential tool for understanding what defines the legality of timber activities in 29 producer countries.
The year 2022 was a lively one, characterized by an increase in demand and prices. According to the ITTO, all tropical wood product groups, including furniture (plus 10 per cent), sawn boards (plus 22 per cent), mouldings (plus 21 per cent), parquetry (plus 21 per cent), joinery (plus 27 per cent), plywood (plus 52 per cent), veneer (plus 13 per cent), inlay products (plus 55 per cent), flooring (plus 45 per cent) and logs (plus 10 per cent) are all on the rise in 2022.
As the representative of the certified timber and tropical forest industry, Atibt has been able to keep pace with these developments, while supporting the fight against deforestation and the conservation and restoration of tropical forests, which are essential for reducing CO2 emissions and strengthening the resilience of ecosystems and natural carbon sinks. “With Environment Day on 5 June, Atibt takes the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the OBC (Organisation for Biodiversity Certificate) initiative, which aims to create an operational tool for assessing positive local impacts on biodiversity. Today, several signs indicate that companies are ready to invest in actions for the restoration, conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems”, emphasises Benoît Jobbé-Duval, Director General of Atibt.
The entry of nine new members in 2022 gives new impetus to Atibt, which with 148 registered members in total is further consolidating its position as a technical and scientific reference for tropical timber resources and a key contact for professionals in the sector, representing them in their dealings with the various stakeholders (governments, international bodies, NGOs, etc.). “In addition to these paying members, there are also honorary members, some of whom continue to play an important role in an industry that will not experience the same economic environment. In fact, the international context and the economic recession looming on the horizon point to a more difficult year in 2023, with a drop in construction activity, linked in particular to the rise in interest rates“, stresses Benoît Jobbé-Duval.
CONCRETE ACTIONS FOR TROPICAL FORESTS
Today, Atibt plays a crucial role for the future of tropical forests. “Concerned about environmental issues, Atibt is active at all levels, from the forest to responsible wood consumption. Acting as a platform serving all stakeholders, Atibt aims to contribute through its actions to the protection and preservation of tropical forests for future generations by supporting forest concessions and sustainable management as well as ensuring the maintenance of protected areas“.
In practice, Atibt promotes tropical timber cut according to the strict criteria of the FSC and PEFC/PAFC sustainable management certifications. This approach is fully consistent with the European strategy to combat deforestation, as the certifications are recognised by the European Union as tools for risk analysis and reduction. The General Assembly presents some of the results of the work of the Forestry and Industry and Certification Commissions:
Validation of the Congo Basin Pan-African Forest Certification (PAFC) standard.
Adoption of the motion presented by Atibt on LFS (intact forest landscapes) at the FSC General Assembly in Bali. Atibt played a particularly active role in tabling several motions to find a solution to Motion 65, which defines management methods for intact forest landscapes (IFLs).
Finally, the advocacy work developed by Atibt through the Fair&Precious collective, which promotes the sustainable management of tropical forests, is now a priority to help safeguard tropical forest ecosystems. Fair&Precious is working to integrate new international requirements, particularly in the areas of zero deforestation, protection of endangered species, payments for ecosystem services (PES) and carbon.
In 2023, Atibt will continue to work to provide information on the final version of the new European regulation to combat deforestation and to lobby for interpretation and clarification of certain provisions, as well as to position the certified tropical timber sector as a leader in the implementation of this new regulation.