Mar 26, 2005
The Guardian (UK) Saturday, March 19, 2005 G8 'Breakthrough' on Illegal Logging Paul Brown, environment correspondent An agreement by the G8 group of industrialised countries to control illegal logging of forests by only buying timber from legal sources was hailed as a breakthrough yesterday by Hilary Benn, the development secretary. The US, which has resisted the deal, accepted pressure from the environment and development ministers meeting in Derby on condition the curbs on timber purchases did not interfere with free trade. Developing countries, beset by corruption and widespread mafia operations to steal timber from their forests, have appealed to developed countries to impose controls to stop the lucrative illegal log trade. By preventing government departments, local authorities and all public contractors buying timber without legal certification, ministers hope to put pressure on the timber industry to get its suppliers to become legitimate. Goverments also undertook to "influence the private sector" to use only legally sourced timber. Mr Benn, who "welcomed enormously" the agreement, said that a second part of the process was to help developing countries to police their logging industries and introduce proper certification and labelling schemes, and to stamp out corruption. "We have to work at this problem from both ends if we are to succeed", he said, "but this is a tremendous start." The ministers also discussed the disastrous effect of climate change on the poorest people in Africa and agreed a series of recommendations for the G8 leaders when they meet at Gleneagles in July. Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, said there was complete agreement between the ministers, that it was impossible to tackle poverty, provide clean water, sanitation and electricity to Africa's poor without also tackling climate change. The senior US delegate, Paula Dobriansky, under secretary for global affairs, who led a team of seven environment and development officials, refused to discuss Washington's reaction when she left the meeting. One concrete announcement at the conference was a scheme to extract electricity from the hot rocks of the Earth's crust along the length of the Rift Valley in Africa. The resource, which could provide a seventh of the continent's electricity, involves building a series of power stations from Djibouti in the north to Mozambique, a distance of more than 1,000 miles. Klaus Topfer, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme told the meeting that he had asked for $35m (£18.22) from the World Bank's global environment facility towards the $200m project to prospect for sites for power stations.