Our special role in this EU victory

9 July 2010

This week, Greenpeace celebrated the introduction of laws in the European Union to prevent the importation of illegal timber. It's a momentous win.

While you could think a law established in the EU is a very distant thing for us in Australia and the Pacific, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and our supporters actually played a very important role in this outcome.

Greenpeace has been campaigning to prevent the trade in illegal timber for a decade, and has done some amazing actions and public work around the problem. Greenpeace was central to elevating the issue of illegal logging as a global environmental issue, and concerning all our forest areas including the Amazon, Africa, Papua New Guinea (PNG),  southeast Asia, Russia and Finland.

How we contributed to the outcome

Greenpeace Australia Pacific (and our forests team) has contributed mightily to this effort.

Our work in PNG has been an important strand of the campaign and was used by Greenpeace offices in Europe to chip away at their governments and the EU Parliament.

Our offices here in Australia and the Pacific supported the investigations that exposed scandals of illegal logging in many remote places in PNG, particularly in the Western and Gulf Provinces. We have written reports, exposed scandals, undertaken peaceful direct action, and spread the word through the media and various political fora.

Several of our PNG colleagues visited Europe in this time, notably Annie Kajir, the Goldman Prize winner, lawyer and activist. And, of course, our own team, including Dorothy Tekwie and Sam Moko. Our work has been used by ABC’s Four Corners, SBS’s Insight and BBC’s Newsnight.

Sam Moko, from our office in Papua New Guinea, in front of London’s Admiralty Arch. In 2006, Greenpeace activists protested the government's use of illegally logged timber.

Of coursed, we’ve achieved many other things as well. A really key part of our work is in the timber industry itself – highlighting illegal timber in the marketplace, as well as driving change by targeting furniture, book, timber and paper traders. We started to turn the market in China by telling the PNG story in 2005-06, and obtained major concessions from multinational DIY supply centres like B&Q as a result.

In many ways the corporate road has been quicker. But, the legislative side of the campaign is important to bring home because it solidifies otherwise precarious corporate promises.

Still more work to do

There is still a huge amount to do. We still have to reach the endgame in Australia on illegal timber, but this may not be too far off. The forests in PNG continue to be trashed – there’s been an additional 2.5 million hectares of concessions allocated in the last couple of years.

The PNG Government wants to use the REDD framework to continue to log and to include plantations and agribusinesses as ‘carbon offsets’, and this fight is far from over.

All in all, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that Greenpeace Australia Pacific and our supporters has yet again contributed to a win on something of great significance through global campaigning.

Congratulations everyone!
Stephen Campbell is Head of Campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.