China’s Hongmu industry faces post-CITES challenges

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国际公约倒逼红木可持续发展

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carving-rosewood-furniture-in-china-c-eia

Carving rosewood Hongmu furniture in China (c) EIA

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绝大多数欢庆国庆长假的老百姓可能完全不知情,在地球另一端的南非约翰内斯堡,一项又一项在国际公约大会上通过的决议将会对国内诸多产业产生长远影响——红木产业就是其中之一。

红木被世界关注是近几年的事:环境调查署是第一家调查和关注中国的红木产业对全球热带森林影响的国际组织。自2012年发布第一份中国非法木材贸易报告以来,环境调查署集中发布了一系列红木报告,揭示红木采伐和贸易对亚洲、非洲和拉美社会和森林的负面影响。红木背后鲜为人知的情况在近年逐渐被国人熟悉。

不久前,联合国濒危野生动植物国际贸易公约(CITES,也称华盛顿公约)的缔约国齐聚南非召开第十七届缔约方大会。会议上讨论并且通过了诸多与红木树种有关的内容,使得非法砍伐和非法木材贸易再次成为全球关注的热点。

会议上最重大的结果,无疑是将全球所有黄檀属树种(Dalbergia genus)全部被列入CITES公约附录二,即除极少数特列外、所有黄檀属树种的国际贸易需要可才能行。这意味着,目前国家红木国家标准上的14个红木树种(近一半红木树种)的国际贸易都将在明年受到限制。

值得一提的是,此次被列入附录二的黄檀属的热带树种共计超过250个。这项在不久前还被视为“不可能通过”的提案,在大会上被一致通过,甚至不需进入投票环节。拉美和非洲诸多支持该提案的国家纷纷发言陈述对非法砍伐的担忧,认为将所有黄檀都列入附录有助于减轻执法压力,避免不法分子将矛头转向替代物种——例如缅甸花枝和花梨往往作为更为稀少的交趾黄檀(俗称大红酸枝)的替代物种被大量走私。

在上述提案通过后几十分钟后,自西非国家的刺猬紫檀(俗称非洲黄花梨)也被升到附,国际贸易将受限制。联合提案的西非十一国和欧盟在提案陈述中直接表示,尽管西非各国在近年基本全面禁止采伐和出口刺猬紫檀,2015年中国刺猬紫檀原木的进口量较2009年增长了2000倍,这使得这些国家不得不求助于国际公约来防止该物种走向灭绝。

与此同时,泰国要求修改大红酸枝附录注释的提案也被一致通过。从明年起,大红酸枝除种子等极少产品外,其它所有产品(包括半成品和成品)都将需要CITES证书许可才可以贸易。环境调查署的报告详细描述了大红酸枝在湄公河流域如何因非法贸易逐渐走向灭绝。

根据近年的海关进出口数据,老挝和马达加斯加是近年来两大主要红木出口国。在这次大会上,两国均因森林治理能力薄弱、无法掌控非法木材贸易而受到CITES的制裁:所有缔约国将被禁止进口从老挝出口的大红酸枝(除成品外),且这一禁令没有取消的时限,需根据老挝履约的成效来决定;国际社会对马达加斯加黄檀属或柿属木材的贸易禁令也得以维持,直至常务会对马方的履约成效表示满意。

值得指出的是,将红木树种列入国际公约几乎是国际社会寻求保护的最后一招:2015例,中国的前十五大木原木出口国中,十三个已禁止出口原木。因为中国没有对应立法,木材一旦被走私出产材国,就基本可以合法进入中国。

但是在CITES公约框架下,中国作为缔约国有履约的责任。被列入CITES附录二的红木,其国际贸易仍然可以进行,但需要受到原产国、中转国和进口国的许可证管理。原产国出具出口许可的前提,是该国际贸易不会对该物种的生存致危。上述即将施行的变动立意保护全球红木资源,从长远来看,应当是红木产业得以长远发展的福音。

历史上,红木是属于皇家贵族的奢侈品。近十余年,红木产业异军突起:仿制的明清家具被产业化、规模化生产,红木原料成为投资品,红木商人纷纷涌向海外,红木价格不断开出新高。在泡沫式快速发展中,对红木产业狂飙突进的反思却少之又少,国内绝大多数消费者对红木消费如何在全球各地引起的非法砍伐、非法贸易一无所知。然而业内人都明白,红木产业按照近年规模发展,是难以为继的:不但产材国纷纷立法限制砍伐和出口,红木在国内的生产销售也处于严重过剩的状态。

近几年来,随着经济形势的变化,国内反腐倡廉风气的盛行,红木产业同其它行业一样面临转型和长期发展的难题——有没有可能使得这个产业成为可持续、生态友好的产业?

成熟的木材消费市场例如美国、欧盟和澳大利亚,都在近年经历了类似的反思,消费者、产业力量和环保组织联合推动了这几个国家立法禁止非法木材入境本国市场。我相信中国有朝一日也会采取类似的措施来保护国内负责任的木材企业的可持续发展;但在那一天到来之前,全球热带森林的治理、红木资源的全球性保护,还需寄望于国际公约对有关木材贸易的限制和管理。

Vicky Lee
Trade & Policy Analyst

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China’s Hongmu furniture industry faces post-CITES challenges

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carving-rosewood-furniture-in-china-c-eia

Carving rosewood Hongmu furniture in China (c) EIA

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Most Chinese celebrating national holidays in early October were not aware that across the globe in Johannesburg, South Africa, decisions passed at an international convention meeting will have long lasting impact on many industries in China, including the Hongmu furniture industry.

It is only recently that the term Hongmu (red wood in Chinese, largely referring to tropical rosewood) has caught the world’s attention: the Environmental Investigation Agency is the first international NGO to investigate and expose the impact of the Hongmu industry on global tropical forests.

Since EIA released a major report on China’s illegal timber trade around the world in 2012, it has released a series of reports detailing the consequences of logging and trade of Hongmu on the societies and forests in Asia, Africa and Latin Africa. The little known stories of the Hongmu trade started to be told in China too.

Furthermore, during the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES, aka the Washington Convention) that took place in South Africa last month, countries adopted various changes related to Hongmu species, making illegal logging and illegal timber trade again a focus on the world’s stage.

The most significant result for forests was undoubtedly the listing of the Dalbergia genus onto the Appendix II of CITES. This will mean that, with a few exceptions, nearly all the international trade of Dalbergia species will only be allowed for trade with permits. Fourteen species of China’s current National Hongmu Standard, almost half of the official Hongmu species, will be restricted for trade from next year.

Dalbergia species to be listed onto Appendix II include over 250 tropical species. The adoption of this proposal, considered not long ago to be a ‘mission impossible’, was of consensus. Representatives from Latin America and Africa spoke in favour of the proposal, citing instances of illegal logging. They said that listing all Dalbergia at once will alleviate pressure on enforcement as criminals often mis-declare and target replacement species – for instance, Burmese rosewoods are widely smuggled as replacement species for the lookalike but more valuable Dalbergia cochinchinesis (Siamese rosewood).

Shortly after the above proposal was adopted, another species Pterocarpus erinaceus (Kosso, also known as African Huahuali) was also up-listed onto Appendix II. The co-proponents, 11 West African countries and the European Union pointed out that although logging and export of Kosso logs have been banned across almost all its range in West Africa, China’s imports of Kosso logs in 2015 have increased by 2,000 times compared to 2009. The range states therefore had to turn to the international convention to save the species from extinction.

At the same time, Thailand’s proposal to close a loophole in Siamese rosewood’s listing was adopted unanimously. From next year, all international trade of Siamese rosewood, with very few exception such as seeds, can only be sanctioned with relevant CITES permits. EIA’s report described how Siamese rosewood was being wiped out by illegal trade in the Mekong region.

According to recent years’ Customs import and export data, Laos and Madagascar are the two main suppliers of Hongmu raw materials. During CoP17, these two countries were punished for weak forest governance and inability to control illegal timber trade: all parties are requested to suspend importing Siamese rosewood from Laos; the international trade embargo on Madagascar’s Dalbergia and Diospyros species is also maintained. These measures will be in place until Laos’ and Madagascar’s compliance have been approved.

It is worth noting that listing Hongmu species onto an international convention was almost the last resort for the international community: for example, 13 of China’s top 15 suppliers of Hongmu logs in 2015 have banned the export of logs. Because China does not have reciprocal legislation, once timber was smuggled out of a range state it can almost certainly enter China legally.

But under the CITES’ framework, China must comply with the rules as a signatory. Hongmu species listed on the Appendix II can still be allowed for international trade with permits from export, transit and import countries. One of the pre-conditions for allowing such trade is that it will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. The above measures are intended to protect global Hongmu resources, but they should also be beneficial to the long-term development of the Hongmu industry.

Historically, Hongmu furniture and ornaments are luxuries exclusive to the royals in China. In recent decades, a Hongmu industry has emerged and rapidly expanded: traditional Ming and Qing dynasty furniture is being reproduced on an industrial scale, Hongmu raw materials are becoming sought-after investments, Hongmu traders are flocking overseas and Hongmu products are competing to create yet another price record. While a bubble is clearly being inflated, few have reflected on the rapid development of the Hongmu industry – most ordinary Hongmu consumers have no knowledge of the illegal logging and trade in Hongmu globally. However, the industry insiders know the Hongmu industry cannot be sustained at the speed of recent years – not only many range states haves placed restrictions on logging and exports, the production and retail of Hongmu within China are evidently excessive of what’s actually needed.

In recent years, the changing economic situation, coupled with a nationwide anti-corruption campaign, is forcing the Hongmu industry to face up to the difficult question like many other industries – is there a way forward for it to become a more sustainable and environment-friendly industry?

Other more developed timber markets such as the US, the EU and Australia have gone through similar reflections. One important turning point is that consumers, industries and environmental groups have worked together to push for a legislation to prohibit illegal timber from entering these markets.

I believe China will one day adopt similar measures to protect its own responsible timber companies from the illegal trade. But, before that day arrives, the global conservation of Hongmu resources will still have to depend on the restrictions and management of the CITES convention.

 

Vicky Lee
Trade & Policy Analyst