For 20 years we’ve urged China to ban the use of illegal timber – now it’s happening!

In an extraordinary move, China is changing its Forest Law to include a nationwide ban on buying, processing or transporting illegally sourced timber.

“This is potentially huge, a real game-changer for both the future of the planet’s precious forests and the battle against dangerous climate change,” said Faith Doherty, our Forests Campaign Leader.

“For almost 20 years, China’s demand for raw materials for its vast wood-processing industry has been a massive driver of illegal logging around the world, especially in South-East Asia and Africa.”

China is the world’s largest importer of wood and the largest exporter of wood based products too, but according to the UN Environment Programme and international law enforcement agency Interpol, between 15-30 per cent of all timber traded globally has been illegally harvested.

We were one of the first campaigning environmental organisations to expose and combat global deforestation and our landmark 2012 report Appetite for Destruction: China’s Trade in Illegal Timber revealed China to be the single largest international consumer of illegal wood.

“Our investigations in the past two decades have revealed how China is effectively exporting deforestation around the world and we have urged it time and again to follow the example of countries such as Indonesia, the USA, European Union and current attempts by Vietnam and put its house in order with a combination of legislation and strict enforcement,” added Doherty.

“This amendment to its law is such a positive move by China and will also help to encourage timber-producing countries to tackle corruption in the way they manage and trade in the products of their own forests.”

Our investigators have documented illegal timber flows into China from Indonesia, Laos, Mozambique, Myanmar, Vietnam and elsewhere.

Illegal timber seized during raid in China

As well as the ban on illegal timber, the newly amended Chinese Forest Law – last updated 20 years ago – also includes:

  • a chapter on forestry ownership, specifying ‘forest resources shall belong to the state unless the law stipulates they belong to the collective’ and stipulating the legitimate rights and interests of the owners, mainly the State, the collective and the individuals, of the forests, trees and woodlands;
  • commitments that the Government will seek to develop a stable, healthy, high-quality and effective forestry ecology system;
  • strengthening of protection for forestry resources and strictly banning the cutting of natural forests;
  • promoting afforestation and encouraging more forestry coverage at all levels;
  • strict controls over the annual cutting volume of timber.