STAFF REPORTER | Global Witness
PORT MORESBY – During the APEC forum civil society groups in Papua New Guinea delivered a collective letter to president Xi Jinping calling on him to urgently review the current lack of regulation on illegal wood entering China.
In 2016, PNG provided 29% of China’s tropical log imports, making it the country’s single largest supplier.
But despite being the world’s largest consumer and manufacturer of wood and wood products, China has no regulations to keep illegal timber from entering its borders.
Recent reports have revealed evidence that large quantities of China’s wood imports come from illegal operations in PNG.
Under China’s flagship Belt and Road initiative, it has already committed to billions of dollars in infrastructure and agricultural projects across PNG.
The letter praised China’s vision of an ‘ecological civilisation’ but urged that it place the same level of attention on its ecological footprint overseas as it does at home, and asked it to ensure that materials sourced from abroad are legal and sustainable.
The letter also highlighted the devastating effect of illegal logging on the forests of PNG and the resulting climate impacts and damage to biodiversity and the livelihoods of Papua New Guineans.
“China’s influence in PNG is strong and growing,” said Peter Bosip, executive director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights.
“But meanwhile, the forests that sustain our livelihoods and culture are being liquidated.
“For decades now, the PNG government has failed to enforce its own law and protect our forests and our people’s livelihoods. Since most of PNG’s logs are exported to China, we are calling on China to help end this illegal trade.”
Gary Juffa MP, Governor of Oro Province, said: “President Xi Jinping has called for Chinese citizens to defend what he called ‘ecological red lines’: natural areas that are too valuable to exploit. I couldn’t agree more.
“The problem is that, while China protects its own environment, its behaviour abroad is driving environmental devastation in countries like PNG.
“China has not yet extended its own internal best practices to how it sources raw materials in other countries, which means that illegally produced timber from PNG continues to feed China’s manufacturing sector. This needs to change now.”
Lela Stanley, policy advisor at Global Witness, said: “China is taking steps to clean up its domestic manufacturing sector and polluted environment, and positioning itself as a global leader on climate change.
“But if it’s serious about its vision of an ‘ecological civilization,’ it needs to ensure the raw materials like timber that it sources abroad are produced legally and sustainably.”