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Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the extent to which rainforests in Brazil, the Congo Basin and south-east Asia are being destroyed by legal and illegal logging; and how they are contributing to international action to control these operations. [HL1681]

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN-FAO) estimates that total rainforest loss between 1990 and 2005 in these regions was as follows: Brazil: 42 million ha; Congo Basin: 11 million ha; and south-east Asia: 39 million ha.

Estimates of the extent of illegal logging and forest clearance are unreliable but could be between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of these totals. The primary driver of forest loss, legal or illegal, is not only logging for timber, but is also clearing for cattle ranching and agricultural crops, such as soy and palm oil.

The UK is contributing £24 million to support implementation of the EU's forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT) action plan. This involves bilateral agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries that will help them develop and implement timber licensing systems. A new EU regulation will ensure that only timber from these countries licensed as legal will be allowed into the EU. The agreements will also seek to address broader governance problems that allow illegal logging and forest destruction in these countries.

In March 2007, the Government announced a £50 million UK contribution to a fund to help conserve the Congo Basin rainforest. Funds will be available for spending in the financial year 2008-09. This will support proposals by 10 central African countries and civil society groups to protect the Congo Basin rainforest from destruction and will strengthen the work of other donors who are already active in the region.

At the Climate Change Conference in Bali last December, inclusion of payments for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in a post-Kyoto climate change treaty was agreed. Projects which reduce deforestation are now likely to attract significant sums of money from private investors. The UK has pledged £15 million to the World Bank's forest carbon partnership facility for pilots to examine modalities for implementation.