The demand for timber and timber products drives deforestation worldwide, and is often associated with illegal practices. As major timber consuming markets, the European Union (EU), USA and Australia have all introduced laws to restrict the access of illegally harvested timber to their markets.
The USA was the first to pass an illegal logging law in 2008, by amending the Lacey Act, a piece of law which has banned illegal wildlife trafficking since 1900. The 2008 Lacey Act Amendments added plants and plant products such as timber and paper to the law. In the EU, the EU Timber Regulation has applied since 3 March 2012 and in Australia, the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act took full effect in November 2014.
Similarities between the three laws
There are many similarities in what these laws mean for companies in the timber sector. All three laws define timber as illegal when it has been logged against the laws in the country of harvest. They all make it an offence to trade illegal timber. For companies to ensure they don’t deal with illegal timber, they must gather information on their supplies and assess the risk that timber has been harvested illegally. This process is referred to as due diligence in the EU and Australian law and due care in the US Lacey Act. None of the three laws accept voluntary certification as automatic proof of the legality of timber or timber products.
Because of these similarities, companies can take very similar steps to comply in each of the three countries. But there are some differences which are worth considering.
Differences between the three laws
Timber and timber products included in the law:
- The US Lacey Act applies, as a general rule, to all plants including trees and wood products;
- The EU Timber Regulation applies to specific timber products listed in the law;
- The prohibition to import or process illegal timber in the Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act applies to all timber/products, while the due diligence requirement only applies to a defined list of timber/products.
Who the law applies to:
- The US Lacey Act applies to all traders of timber products;
- The main requirements in the EU Timber Regulation apply to the first trader putting the timber or product on the EU market;
- The Australian Illegal Logging Prohibition Act applies to Australian timber importers and processors of raw logs which were harvested domestically.
ClientEarth has compiled a detailed comparison of the three different laws.