Media News Bulletin from PEFC Asia Pacific July 2021

Can't See the Wood for the Trees? Put on Your Sustainability Glasses

Don't let anyone tell you that the pandemic with its consequential health and economic impact is holding back the global timber, rubber, paper and packaging industries. What's more, the sustainability trend reigns supreme. Those who believe in the importance of responsible sourcing and sustainable supply chains are seeing widespread acceptance of change for good!. This issue has the latest on the natural rubber campaign and how PEFC is helping the fashion industry come clean. Mass Engineered Timber (MET) and Digitalisation for the Built Environment rate highly too. All with particular relevance to Media and its followers in Asia Pacific. Pictured above is International House, Sydney, Australia, which won the World Architecture Festival - PEFC Best Use of Certified Timber Prize in 2018.

Saving Lives. Saving Forests. With Natural Rubber.

Rubber helps save lives. If it’s produced sustainably, it can help save forests, too. Rubber is found in hospitals worldwide. From latex gloves to pacemakers, seals for controlled drug delivery devices, even your blood pressure cuff. Rubber isn’t the most obvious part of our modern medical infrastructure, but if it suddenly disappeared our hospitals would be in disarray. Most of this rubber starts its life in rubber trees – billions of them on small plantations all over the world. There the rubber is tapped by hand, and brought to market by millions of smallholders. PEFC works with these smallholders so that they can increase their yields, and produce rubber in a way that protects their plantations and nearby forests. This is one of the key messages in PEFC's Supporting Sustainable Rubber campaign, launched on 7 July. Read all about it.

PEFC Joins in "Making Peace with Nature" in Climate Week

The Virtual Thematic Sessions of Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2021 (APCW 2021) run from 6 to 9 July and is hosted by the Government of Japan. The sessions are designed to boost the climate change response of countries in Asia and the Pacific and build momentum for the crucial UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November in Glasgow. Taking part in the ‘Making peace with nature in the context of climate action’ session, Richard Laity, PEFC South-East Asia Manager, is on the ‘Strengthening governance and policy innovation’ panel discussion. Japan, as a country which pledged net-zero emissions by 2050, is hosting the Asia Pacific Climate Week 2021, in the hope of enhancing collaboration for redesigning our socio-economic system through decarbonisation.” Still time to participate in Climate Week

BuildTech Asia on Digitalisation for the Built Environment

Dealing with real live issues and coming up with solutions is not the easiest when its all online. But BuildTech Asia achieved that by going digital in more ways than one. PEFC was there - virtually of course - and came away with some very realistic answers. The digital edition of BuildTech Asia exhibition is running 7 to 8 July to facilitate the exchange of insights, knowledge and solutions towards accelerating the adoption of smart technologies, as well as strengthening Industry 4.0 capabilities for the built environment sector. This year, it has more than 50 key industry leaders speaking at 40 online webinars and also features over 100 exhibiting global brands. You can catch at least one important message from BuildTech Asia by listening to On Prime Time, with host Rachel Kelly who finds out how digitalisation is shaking up the built environment in a special interview with Dr Teo Ho Pin, Honorary Advisory, Singapore Institute of Building. Listen up.

It's in Fashion: Join for the Global Climate Action Initiative

For most large fashion brands, emissions from production, manufacturing and materials will all be higher than from direct operation. The 2021 edition of the organisation’s Transparency Index, published this week, analyses the reporting and other disclosure processes of the world’s largest fashion companies, covering information relating to human rights and environmental impact. This week PEFC is also proud to announce that it has joined the UNFCCC Fashion for Global Climate Action initiative as a signatory to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. The Fashion for Global Climate Action initiative calls on the fashion industry to acknowledge the contribution of the sector to climate change and our shared responsibility to strive towards climate neutrality for a safer planet. PEFC also continues its own "Fashions Change, Forests Stay" campaign. Read all about it.

Metsa Group's "Sustainability Unfolded" for Forests

Responsible forest use does not cause climate change – but fights it. There is a genuine need to increase knowledge and create a positive attitude towards responsible forest management. When conducted correctly, it helps us preserve our planet’s viability for the future generations. Sustainable forest management plays a key role in the process of reforestation. Growing trees absorb more CO2 than mature ones, so how we manage to secure the healthy growth of forests is essential. If after regeneration felling, each felled tree is always replaced with three to four new seedlings, you can definitely call it reforestation. That's a clear message from Metsa Group - a long time PEFC International Stakeholder Member - whose business operations cover the entire value chain for wood, from wood products and forest services to tissue or paperboard. There's more here.

Responsible Wood: The Master & his Apprentice in Tasmania

Craig Howard and son Jack are two of Tasmania’s finest timber craftsman. They really are two of a kind… Two parts of the Heritage Furniture legacy, fourth and fifth-generation timber artisans alike, both have forged reputations as specialists in designing and manufacturing handcrafted masterpieces. Located in an elevated inlet overlooking Geilston Bay, the Heritage Furniture workshop contains a treasure trove of high valued specialty timbers including the iconic Tasmanian Huon Pine, King Billy Pine, Celery-top Pine, Blackwood, Blackheart Sassafras, Myrtle in addition to selected imported timbers such as cedar and mahogany. Read more about Heritage Furniture.

Unearthing the Delights & Insights in Tomorrow's Timber

Timber is in the news everywhere. For all the right reasons. And it's difficult to avoid running into tall stories about Mass Engineered Timber (MET) and buildings made entirely of wood. Of course, there will be the naysayers who come up with all the reasons why wood is not so good - for the environment, for fire safety, for its added cost. But when you believe in timber as the best material for building - as PEFC obviously does - its good to read what Pablo van der Lugt has to say, and show, in Tomorrow's Timber. No holding back. Page after page of case studies, plans, architects' ideas, drawings and photographs of some of the best examples in the world. It all goes to illustrate what the author calls "the next building revolution". Read Ken Hickson's review here.

Certified Paper Packaging & the Circular Economy

A 2020 Two Sides Survey on European Packaging Preferences found that paperboard packaging is favoured by consumers as being better for the environment and considered easier to recycle and home compost. If you are a brand owner or retailer looking to understand and learn more about how certified paper packaging affects you and how you can play a larger part in the circular economy, you can join in the PEFC webinar on Thursday 8 July or catch the recording of it. See how innovative certified paper-based packaging solutions are meeting the challenge for more environmentally friendly alternatives. Speakers include Christophe Jordan from Arjo Wiggins who will present Sylvicta (pictured) – a ground-breaking new sustainable alternative to plastic packaging using PEFC-certified wood pulp. Read more

Singapore's Six Garden Pavilions in PEFC Certified Timber

Beautiful wooden structures are taking shape at National Park’s Jurong Lake Gardens. It’s been 25 years since Venturer Timberwork built National Park’s Botanical Gardens Visitors' Centre. Since then Kevin Hill says there’s been a great deal of evolution, especially on the sustainability front. We visited the building site in Jurong last week to see how a PEFC audit is conducted and interview those involved in the assembly of the six timber pavilions. See more here.

Who Wants to Win the "Best Use of Certified Timber Prize"?

For the third time, PEFC is supporting the World Architecture Festival 'Best Use of Certified Timber Prize', rewarding architects and project teams for their use of certified timber as a main construction material for buildings outstanding in sustainability, innovation, quality or aesthetics. “In the two years’ dialogue with renowned architects at WAF, we have noticed an increasing interest in sustainable timber. Some architects even say it’s 'the only way forward'," said Fabienne Sinclair, Head of Marketing at PEFC International. "We are pleased to contribute to making both forests and construction more sustainable.” Read and see more here.

Global & Regional Bounce Back By Supporting Sustainable Rubber

A greater commitment to sustainability in the production and supply chain of natural rubber will help the global industry bounce back better after the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 
 
If this grows in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, it will have even more impact in the Asia Pacific region for many more years to come. 
 
Despite the size of the industry and the complexity of the supply chain, the sources of natural rubber are quite modest and largely concentrated in Southeast Asia. 
 
What’s more, 85% is produced by six million smallholders, tapping and tending rubber trees on independent plantations. Significantly, most of these plantations are in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
 
As the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) gets ready to launch its global Supporting Sustainable Rubber campaign in July, earlier in June – as reported in the Media News Bulletin - the organisation was actively involved in two major international rubber events:
 
  • On the eve of World Environment Day (5 June), the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) organised a webinar for the Rubber Board, Ministry of Commerce, and Industry, Government of India on Long Term Sustainability of the Resource and Rubber Industry in India. It’s clear the Indian Rubber Industry is growing at a fast pace, so it is necessary for natural rubber to be produced from sustainably managed plantations.
 
  • Meantime, the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Government of Cote d'Ivoire, organised the virtual World Rubber Summit (WRS) 2021 on 10 June. The theme was ‘’Facing the Future: Inclusiveness, Sustainability and Growth for the Next Normal’’. Richard Laity, PEFC Southeast Asia Manager along with other panellists from Asia Pacific, participated in a debate on the topic: ‘Climate Adaption & Mitigation: Farm to Trade’.
 
What was learnt from these events is that natural rubber is an essential raw material used in the creation of more than 40,000 products. It represents a USD300 billion supply chain involving 40 million people (IRSG, 2019). 
 
There’s more to learn:
  • 47% of the global rubber supply is natural, derived from about 14 million hectares of plantations around the world.
  • In 2018, the total value of that rubber was US$40.71 billion.
  • In 2019, natural rubber production reached 13.6 million metric tonnes.
  • 70% of natural rubber goes into tyre production. 
  • Rubber plantations produce more than rubber! About 63 million green tonnes of rubber wood are produced annually.
  • Rubber wood is the world’s most widely traded tropical hardwood (ITTO, 2017).
 
PEFC has had 20 years of experience championing the rights of smallholders and forest operators in Southeast Asia. As it has provided chain of custody certification for products originally sourced from forests, like furniture, flooring, paper and packaging, it is also doing the same for natural rubber and rubber wood, whether its end use is for rubber tyres for vehicles or footwear for athletes.
 
It is also a member of the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) and a founding supporter of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), both with their global headquarters in Singapore. 
 
PEFC knows that sustainable forest management and chain of custody certifications work together to achieve best practice, by tracking natural rubber and rubber wood from the plantations to the final products. 
 
For its Supporting Sustainably Rubber campaign, PEFC has identified four categories where partnerships are essential:
  • Company-led procurement policies
  • Local capacity and infrastructure building
  • Public policies to enable legal frameworks
  • Transformation of production to improve yield and quality, as well as living incomes
For more go to PEFC international: Supporting Sustainable Rubber

Media News Bulletin from PEFC Asia Pacific June 2021

World Environment Day: Promoting a Sustainable & Resilient Future for Natural Rubber in India
 
 
On the eve of World Environment Day, the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), jointly with the Programme on Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), is organising a webinar for the Rubber Board, Ministry of Commerce, and Industry, Government of India on “Promoting Certification of Forests and Rubber Plantations for Long Term Sustainability of the Resource and Rubber Industry in India” on Friday, 4 June 2021 from 3.30pm. (That's1200hrs CET or 6pm Singapore time).The Indian Rubber Industry is growing at a fast pace, so it is necessary that natural rubber is produced from sustainable plantations. Certification is globally recognised as the evidence of sustainable management of rubber plantations, as well the entire supply chain.Go here for more info and to register.
 
Renewable, Recyclable and Responsibly-sourced Packaging
 
 
When the Sustainability in Packaging Asia conference returns online on 7 to 9 June it will ignite important discussion around the challenges, opportunities and innovations making waves across the global packaging market. Ben Gunneberg, the CEO and Secretary General of Geneva-based PEFC International is a keynote speaker on the first day, Monday 7 June, when he will stress that sustainable packaging must be all about “Renewable, Recyclable and Responsibly-Sourced”. As demand for environmentally-friendly packaging grows, he sees a shift from single use plastic to paper products and notes that consumers are calling for brands to take greater responsibility for the environment. There's more.
 
Climate Adaptation & Mitigation: Farm to Trade for Rubber
Natural Rubber is in the news more than ever, so stay tuned for the launch of PEFC’s Supporting Sustainable Rubber Campaign. Coming soon. Meantime, the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Government of Cote d'Ivoire, is organising the virtual World Rubber Summit (WRS) 2021. The theme for the Summit is ‘’Facing the Future: Inclusiveness, Sustainability and Growth for the Next Normal’’. Richard Laity, PEFC Southeast Asia Manager, and other panellists will participate in a debate on 10 June on the topic: ‘Climate Adaption & Mitigation: Farm to Trade’. Read all about it and register here.
 
APP TImber: Protecting Forests & Promoting Certification
 
 
APP Timber is the only company in Southeast Asia that is both a PEFC international stakeholder member and has PEFC chain of custody certification for wood products sold from its Malaysian warehouse. "Being a stakeholder member means that we have the responsibility – together with all other members – to safeguard PEFC’s mission to protect the forests by promoting sustainable forest management through certification." This from the interview with Michael Hermens, Group Managing Director at APP Timber, who shares his thoughts about sustainability and global cooperation in the PEFC series "Meeting our Certified companies". Read More.
 
Webinar Update on Indonesia's Forest Certification Progress 
 
 
As of 31 March 2021, more than 3.9 million hectares of forest in Indonesia have been IFCC or PEFC certified. That includes 74 forest management companies and 40 companies that have PEFC certified supply chain or chain of custody. That was the message from Regita Wirastri, Promotion, Marketing and Communication Manager for IFCC during the latest Indonesian webinar on Thursday 27 May. The participants included PEFC/IFCC CoC certified companies, IFCC SFM certified companies, PEFC accredited certification bodies, concession holders, brand owners, consultants, local government representatives and academics.  Learn a lot more from the webinar recording.
 
Asia Pacific in the World of PEFC: Maps, Facts & Figures
 
How is the Asian region doing regards the area of PEFC-certified forests it has and the number of PEFC chain of custody certificates by country? The interactive map shows this, as well as the development over time. You can also check the PEFC statistics document collection in the quarterly reports. This report combines historical data of PEFC certification and global land cover statistics provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The national coverage represents the ratio of PEFC-certified forest area over the FAO area estimation by country. Read and see more here.
 
SustainableTower Design Wins Responsible Wood Award
 
 
Two University of Queensland architectural students have been awarded the Responsible Wood Architectural Prize for Excellence in Timber Design in Australia for their research paper and model on the construction of Emu Creek Observation Tower in the Brisbane Valley region. The students, Dylan Francks and Simin Louei, assisted by Matthew Walton, Alec Hutchinson and Emile Hildebrandt, presented the research design and models for the tower, which uses culturally sustainable participatory principles and incorporates locally-sourced under-utilised grey ironbark (Eucalyptus drepanophylla). As a timber abundant in the region, it can be found in one of the many nearby timber plantations, with the tower acting as an “ode to the region’s colonial past”. Read all about it.
 
UPM's Space Mission to "Create a Future Beyond Fossils"
 
 
UPM, one of PEFC's International Stakeholder Members, is about to to go into space with a plywood satellite. “UPM’s mission as a company is to create a future beyond fossils. WISA Woodsat is made of plywood and it carries a profound message of replacing fossils with renewable wood-based materials, also in very demanding applications", says Ari Voutilainen, the space project manager for UPM Plywood. WISA Woodsat will be launched to polar orbit by Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle. The launch will take place from the Mahia Peninsula launch complex in New Zealand. Read all about it.
 
Experience "Harmony" in the Forest through Photography
 
 
There's still time to enter the 2021 PEFC Photographer of the Year contest. Our photo in the spotlight this month is ‘Harmony’, taken by Vlad Ionescu in Cheia, Romania, runner up in 2020. Trees, forest landscapes, children playing, people working or animals living in the forest – share your photo and help us to escape to the wonderful world of forests in our imaginations! To enter your photo is simple, check out www.pefc.photo to see if there is a national contest in your country. Then head to Instagram and post your forest photo using the contest hashtag of your country – and that’s it, you’re done! The deadline for entries is 5 June – World Environment Day. There's more here.
 
Making PEFC Certified Furniture with "Lasting Qualities"
 
 
The circular economy, sustainable e-commerce and emerging from the economic and health impacts of the pandemic. Where does forest certification fit in for the global furniture industry. Right at the heart, according to the latest article by Ken Hickson for PEFC, appearing in both World Furniture Online and Panels and Furniture Asia. "If we apply this - the circular economy - to the furniture industry and add in the new norms of e-commerce, we see that we cannot just rely on responsible sourcing or managing a sustainable supply chain right to the end. We have to look beyond the retailer to the consumer to make sure that our products have “lasting qualities”, and that they can be used, reused and/or recycled.
 

Media News Bulletin from PEFC Asia Pacific May 2021

Regenerative Fashion: Sustainable, Innovative Apparel & Textiles
 
 
Regenerative fashion means garments manufactured from fibres produced through sustainable agriculture, or organic farming practices, can reverse climate change by replenishing the plants and the soil. On 27 April, the Innovation Forum Sustainable Apparel and Textiles Conference, discussed how apparel brands can adapt practices to deliver on growing stakeholder expectation. PEFC International Board member Eduardo Rojas Briales spoke on "Regenerative vs sustainable: How are standards for sustainable apparel and fashion evolving?" In highlighting the vital regenerative functions of forests, he said that wood and forest-based fibres are renewable raw materials, which can support the fashion industry in sourcing garments from regenerative sources. Read all about it.
 
Cheers! Beer Cans with PEFC-certified Cardboard Rings
Put a ring around this when you next go for a beer. Estrella Damm has moved way from plastic by producing beverage cans with rings made of 100% biodegradable, PEFC-certified cardboard. This has also been used to replace the plastic packaging around beverage can packs by the leading Spanish beverage producer, With these initiatives, Estrella Damm will save around 360 tons of plastic per year in favour of a natural, renewable and recyclable material. Recognised for its leading sustainability strategies, Estrella is committed to eliminate plastic from its products and replacing them with materials from sustainably managed forests. Cheers for more of this!
 
Protect the Planet: Buy Local & Certified Timber Goods
 
 
As Australian builders declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, material selection plays an all-important role in protecting the planet. In the latest Builders Declare webinar. Mark Thomson, acclaimed eco-architect and director of Responsible Wood, outlined the case for buying locally and supporting timber that is certified under a recognised forest certification scheme. He highlighted the importance of 3rd party validation in the building and development sectors. The Responsible Wood Forest Certification Scheme is one of some 39 national schemes endorsed by PEFC. Responsible Wood is also the national governing body for PEFC in Australia. Read more.
 
Making PEFC FOR-TRADE Practical for Smallholders
 
 
To present the project and initiate the dialogue with local stakeholders, PEFC and its partners in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, have held four national inception workshops since March for the PEFC FOR-TRADE programme.  Taking place in each of the four partner countries, some workshops were held with a physical and remote audience, while others took place completely remotely, respecting the national regulations. In a next step, national action plans will be implemented under the project scope, including training on PEFC endorsed national standards, and a pilot project to make national systems more practical for smallholder forest owners. There's more.
 
India Furniture Exporters Try Canadian Wood for Success
 
Vamani Overseas is one of many Indian manufacturers shifting its focus towards exporting finished products to western countries. Since many international markets require wood to be sustainably sourced, this presents further opportunities for British Columbia's certified forest products in India, as the country becomes a global furniture manufacturing hub. Successes such as this are an important factor in continuing to expand awareness of imported timber species across India. Through the ‘Try Canadian Wood’ programme, Forestry Innovation Investment (FII) continues to forge relationships with local manufacturers and grow knowledge around the wood's favourable properties within furniture applications. Go here for more.
 
Certified for Access to International Markets from Indonesia
 
 
A regional webinar last month focussed on the importance of managing forests sustainably to leverage the growth of PEFC certification and, at the same time, provided tips on how to access international markets and major projects. It was attended by more than 100 delegates in the region. Led by Darren Thomas of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, it was managed by AJA Europe - PT. AJA Sertifikasi IndonesiaIFCC KSK and PEFC International. Richard Laity of PEFC Southeast Asia pointed out the benefits of Chain of Custody certification in helping to meet customer expectations and legality requirements at home and aboard. It also meets private and public sector procurement requirements and provides traceability solutions for wood-based materials. Go here for the recording of the webinar.
 
Vietnam Trains for International & Local Certification Bodies
 
 
The online training course took place in Vietnam in April with enthusiastic participation from more than 60 participants, with 20 Certification Bodies (CBs), including international and national auditors/certifiers. During this event, experts from the Forest Certification Office (VFCO) and PEFC provided a lot of detailed information about the two latest versions of Sustainable Forest Management standards VFCS / PEFC FM and PEFC CoC2020.  At the same time, they came to understand more about difficulties faced by assessment units and market challenges in Vietnam. Read More.
 
Penguins Parade in Award Winning Timber Visitor Centre
 
 
The most-visited tourism destination of the Australian state of Victoria has a new award-winning visitor centre which uses certified timber to achieve a delicate balance between landscape and built form, and between people and wildlife habitat. Achieving this balance was a challenge facing Terroir Architects when designing the new Penguin Parade Visitor Centre on Victoria’s Phillip Island. Low carbon building materials were used throughout the centre’s construction, notably PEFC/Responsible Wood-certified laminated Victorian Ash hardwood used for the exposed beams. The choice of timber beams and plywood panelling, which are self-finished and offer a carefully selected colour and texture, were integral in achieving the centre’s robust appearance. Read all about it.
 
Capture the Heart of the Forest with your Camera
 
 
For the fifth time, PEFC is inviting professional and amateur photographers to submit their best forest photos, for the chance to become the 2021 PEFC Photographer of the Year. Colourful trees, forest landscapes, children playing, people working or animals living in the forest – share your photo and help us to escape to the wonderful world of forests in our imaginations! To enter your photo is simple, check out www.pefc.photo to see if there is a national contest in your country. Then head to Instagram and post your forest photo using the contest hashtag of your country – and that’s it, you’re done! The deadline for entries is 5 June – World Environment Day. There's more here.
 
PEFC Stars in First International Hybrid Studio Broadcast
 
 
 
A PEFC certified product was the star at the first book launch at Marina Bay Sands specially designed Hybrid Broadcast Studio, attended by 50 people in person and beamed to many hundreds more in 10 countries overseas. Special Guest and Speaker on the occasion was Genevieve Chua, CEO of OVOL, the company which supplied PEFC certified paper for the book, who also represents the Print and Media Association Singapore and is PEFC International's former Vice Chair and Board member. Author and publisher Ken Hickson said that he wanted the book to meet “clean and green” standards. This was achieved by sourcing suitable PEFC-certified paper from sustainably managed forests in Asia and using Times Printers, one of Singapore’s dedicated PEFC-certified printers. Read Floyd Cowan's report on Asian Journeys  
 
PEFC Issues Updated Guidance for Chain of Custody Audits
 
 
PEFC is very conscious that there are constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic which can have some impact on the certification and auditing processes around the world. Therefore guidance needs to be updated from time to time. This latest guidance - Version 8 - was released late last month (28 April). It enters into force and can be applied by certification bodies from the day of its publication and is applicable until PEFC Council revokes the guidance. Due to the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, travel and medical restrictions are affecting auditing activities. The main methods to ease the consequences of travel restrictions are the implementation of remote audits, and where this is not sufficient, the extension of time periods affecting issuing of the certificates. There's more here.

Promoting Trade and Sustainable Forest Management to Reduce Forest Crime and Deforestation in Lower Mekong

Feature article from the
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
20 April 2021
 
Promoting Trade and Sustainable Forest Management to Reduce Forest Crime and Deforestation in Lower Mekong
 
A new PEFC-FOR-TRADE project, in collaboration with the UN-REDD Programme’s initiative for the Lower Mekong, will promote trade and sustainable forest management (SFM) and at the same time reduce pressure on forests through improved governance in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
 
PEFC’s Forestry and Trade for Development in the ASEAN region aims to strengthen trade through improved forest certification infrastructure, supporting the reduction of trade barriers, promoting sustainable wood trade, improving livelihoods and contributing to biodiversity protection.
 
The UN-REDD Programme involves working with key institutions in these ASEAN countries, and in China, to reduce the opportunities for forest crime by strengthening governance, particularly by increasing the effectiveness of systems designed to ensure legal and sustainable trade in timber. 
 
By strengthening forest governance, the UN-REDD Programme helps ensure that trading of wood products is legal and sustainable.
 
Aiming to reduce illegal logging and illegal conversion of forests, the Sustainable Forest Trade (SFT) in the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) initiative seeks to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, while boosting sustainable forest management across the region.
 
Biodiversity preservation and livelihood improvement
 
“The Lower Mekong region is one of the critical hotspots in need of biodiversity preservation and livelihood improvement," said Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International. 
 
"I firmly believe that a strong forest governance and institutionalisation at regional and national levels to promote sustainable forest trade is a critical solution. The PEFC framework is proven to contribute to such a goal and we are calling for more of such support to deepen intra-regional cooperation."
 
"It's an excellent and timely opportunity to leverage the quality infrastructure of internationally recognised forest certification systems at the regional and national levels in the Lower Mekong region," added Michael Berger, Head of Technical Unit at PEFC International.
 
"We are looking forward to providing technical support and deepening intra-regional cooperation to improve regional certification infrastructure."
 
Mr Sakchai Unchittikul, Chairman of Thailand Forest Certification Council (TFCC) noted that the project components corresponded well to Thailand’s critical need to strengthen national forest certification capacity to achieve international recognition, and that this was another useful activity in PEFC’s “tireless support of TFCC.”
 
He also said that TFCC was “ready to look for cooperative collaboration between project partners to deliver and go beyond the project’s expectations”.
 
Eco-region encompasses an incredibly high diversity of forest habitats
 
The Lower Mekong basin is a globally important eco-region that encompasses an incredibly high diversity of forest habitats. These forests are home not only to diverse and rare wildlife but are also relied upon by many communities for essential products and services.
 
To reduce the pressure on this valuable natural resource, and to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in the region, the Government of Norway is collaborating with the UN-REDD Programme to implement this initiative that to support countries in the Lower Mekong region (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).
 
Forest crime, the illegal exploitation of the world’s forests, has transformed into one of the largest transnational organised criminal activities, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). With an annual worth of USD 50-150 billion, crimes related to forests and wildlife are the fourth biggest crime sector after drugs, counterfeits and trafficking (INTERPOL-UNEP, 2016).
 
Combating forest crime is crucial to reduce forest degradation and subsequent deforestation, which can significantly affect carbon dioxide emissions.
 
There is an increasing trend of investments from the expanding economies of China, Thailand and Vietnam, to timber production and land intensive industries in the lower-income, higher forest cover countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar.
 
Given that the gap between global supply and demand of wood products is expected to widen significantly by 2050, growth in supply from the region is also predicted to increase, adding further pressure on already stressed forest resources.
 
Illegal logging and illegal forest conversion often stem from insecure land tenure, incomplete legal frameworks, or unclear management and enforcement responsibilities.
 
Boosting Transparency and Cooperation in Lower Mekong
 
The goal of this initiative is to improve governance, promote policy alignment and institutional inter-compatibility within the region, and boost transparency and cooperation between the Lower Mekong region countries and China.
 
Southeast Asia is home to the world’s third largest area of tropical rainforest, containing some of the richest and most valuable resources and habitats on earth. As well as an important source for timber production and rural employment for the region, these forests also have an important effect on watershed protection, biodiversity and the global carbon balance.
 
In addition to the natural forests, planted forests are also common throughout Southeast Asia. In many countries, it is plantation forests, both large and small-scale, as well as trees outside forests that contribute the most to productive forestry.
 
PEFC explains that the SFT-LMR initiative is implemented by FAO and UNEP, with funding from the Government of Norway. Key outcomes include the development of national forest certification systems and related quality infrastructure mechanisms.
 
The PEFC framework will be used to deliver several outputs, which includes deepening intra-regional cooperation, strengthening national certification standards, and building national capacities in forest governance, sustainable forest management, and trade.
 
About PEFC 
PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, is a leading global alliance of national forest certification systems. As an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation, we are dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification. We work throughout the entire forest supply chain to promote good practice in the forest and to ensure that forest-based products are produced with respect for the highest ecological, social and ethical standards. More about the PEFC-For-Trade programme here: https://pefc.org/news/pefc-for-trade-progress-in-the-lower-mekong-region
 
About UN-REDD
The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) in developing countries, was launched in 2008 and builds on the convening role and technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation. Additionally, the programme supports national REDD+ readiness efforts in 65 partner countries spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. More information and news about the REDD the SFT-LMR initiative can be found at https://www.un-redd.org/lower-mekong