The Cost of Illegal Logging to U.S. Economy and Environment

Report outlines the economic, environmental and social costs of illegal logging in Indonesia, including the impact on U.S. jobs and economy and increased carbon emissions from deforestation.

May 3, 2010

‘Illegal Logging in Indonesia: The Environmental, Economic and Social Costs’ Illustrates Need for U.S. to Seek Enforcement of Trade Law

Washington, D.C. (May 3, 2010)  The BlueGreen Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club and United Steelworkers today released a report entitled Illegal Logging in Indonesia: The Environmental, Economic and Social Costs. The report illustrates the connections between environmental devastation abroad, global warming, and the industry and job losses at home, and follows a recent preliminary determination by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) that Indonesian paper producers have benefitted from dumping, based on these environmental practices.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that 73 to 88 percent of wood from Indonesia is illegally logged, while climate experts estimate that deforestation accounts for one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the most significant contributors to climate change.

Read the report.

“Illegal logging is endangering our environment and costing us jobs,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers. “Under current conditions, there is no level playing field and U.S. manufacturers are struggling to compete against imported, illegally harvested wood and wood products. We need to take strong action to level the playing field by making sure we do not allow these products access to our markets.”

The report presents a series of policy recommendations, including: ensuring the Indonesian government enforce existing forestry and anti-corruption laws and improve transparency and public access to information; making sure products created from illegal logging be addressed as a trade subsidy and remedied through trade laws; empowering trade and investment agreements to end demand for and trade in wood products that are illegally and or unsustainably sourced; and providing adequate funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to enforce the Lacey Act, a law that prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.

“The Indonesian pulp and paper industry is notorious for illegal logging and deforestation practices, which have been responsible for driving numerous environmental, economic and social problems,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “We need to enforce current trade agreements and also ensure that Indonesia does the same. Illegal logging has huge costs to all of us and we must address deforestation to address climate change.”

The dumping determination comes after an earlier finding that Indonesian paper producers have benefited from improperly subsidized imported products. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the logging, wood, paper, and cabinetry industries have lost 242,000 jobs, or roughly 23 percent of its workforce, since 2006, and the American Forest and Paper Association showed that more than $1 billion is lost in exports and depressed wood prices.

“Illegal logging is directly connected to unfairly-priced imports because logging companies pay less than market prices for timber,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We need to increase transparency and make sure trade and investment agreements end the demand for illegal or unsustainable wood products.”

“Deforestation is a significant contributor to global warming emissions, and we must take action to ensure that incentives for destruction of the world’s tropical forests are eliminated,” said Jake Schmidt, International Climate Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report release coincides with the arrival of a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize from Papua New Guinea and two members of the Indonesian forestry union Kahutindo. They arrive in Washington, D.C. on May 3 to take part in the 2010 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference, taking place May 4-6 at the Washington Hilton Hotel. This represents the last leg of a speaking tour of Wisconsin and Michigan to discuss illegal logging and resulting job loss.

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The BlueGreen Alliance is a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the clean energy economy. Launched by the United Steelworkers and Sierra Club in 2006, the BlueGreen Alliance now includes the Communications Workers of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Service Employees International Union, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.