THE link between a thriving UK forestry industry and efforts to tackle future global deforestation will be examined in a new parliamentary inquiry. 

Members of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) will explore how best to scale up a sustainable and resilient domestic timber sector, and the degree to which UK supply chains contribute to deforestation overseas. 

The inquiry will also put the effectiveness of the Government’s efforts to curb this under the spotlight. 

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EAC chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Forests around the world are the lungs of the planet, locking in damaging carbon and breathing out oxygen. Global deforestation is threatening this: it destroys precious biodiversity and is one of the greatest threats to warding off runaway climate change.

"Yet here in the UK we continue to import over 80 per cent of timber, some of which is from nations that have damaging track records of deforestation.

“We must make sure the domestic timber industry is fit for the future and can support our net zero ambitions, while better understanding the impact any imports have on the wider world.

"This follows up our earlier report on the UK’s footprint on global biodiversity, where we called on the Government to assess accurately the environmental impact of the UK’s consumption of key commodities." 

It is estimated that around one fifth of the UK’s imported timber footprint is from countries considered to have high social and/or environmental risks associated with their forestry practices. There are also questions around the ability of domestic supplies to meet future demand, the EAC said. 

Industry body Confor was among the groups to welcome news of the inquiry. 

Stuart Goodall, CEO, said: "We have constantly stressed the need to develop a sustainable productive forestry and timber industry in the UK, to grow more of the wood we consume, rather than relying on ever-increasing imports against a backdrop of surging global demand for wood.

"Last November the UK Government was a signatory to the Glasgow Declaration on Forests at COP26, pledging to conserve and protect the world’s fragile forests – halting and reversing forest loss.

"As this inquiry announcement highlights, global timber demand is set to quadruple by 2050 and the UK is the second largest importer of timber in the world after China. With few countries producing more supplies of wood, I just cannot understand why the UK Government is not doing more to increase the amount of domestic timber being produced.

Forestry Journal: Stuart Goodall Stuart Goodall

"Confor looks forward to giving evidence to this inquiry to start addressing these vital issues. The inquiry should be ambitious - to grow the UK's forestry and wood industry sustainably, while tackling climate change and reducing pressure on fragile global forests."

The inquiry will also examine key questions, including:

  • Does the UK Government have an adequate understanding of the future demand for timber, including what tree species should be grown?
  • Does the UK government, working with the devolved administrations, have an effective, joined-up plan with appropriate incentives to increase the production and use of sustainable, domestically grown timber in the UK to reduce its reliance on imports?
  • How well is the UK Government managing its plans for the domestic timber industry in tandem with meeting its woodland creation targets and related climate change, biodiversity and other environmental goals?

Submissions to the inquiry will be welcome until September 8.