EU, China and Africa explore ways to work together in their forestry cooperation

EU, China and Africa explore ways to work together in their forestry cooperation

At the International Workshop on China-Africa Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management, participants from Europe, China and Africa discussed synergies among green finance, China’s engagement in Africa, and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

Mr Harrison S. Karnwea, Chairman Designate of the Board of Directors of the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia, gave a keynote speech on improved forest governance and law enforcement in Liberia through its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU). ‘Liberia, as a very small country in West Africa but a large forest country, has taken bold steps to improve transparency in the management of its forests’ he said. ‘China is fast becoming Liberia’s largest trading partner, especially for timber products from Liberian forests. I encourage China to work closely with Liberia to promote transparency and good governance in the forest sector. When China works along with and purchases timber from VPA countries, the chance of importing illegal timber becomes slim.’

Ms Fang Yuan, Deputy Director of the Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, underlined China’s commitment to sustainability and timber legality. ‘China continues to pursue its sustainable forest resource management cooperation strategy, which aims to combat illegal logging and associated trade, as well as to promote legal timber trade’ she said. ‘So far, China has engaged in extensive multilateral cooperation, including with the EU and many African countries, positively taking part in relevant international and regional negotiations, and promoting international dialogues and exchanges’ she added. ‘Positive results have been achieved in the forestry sector after decades of efforts. China and the EU have been maintaining close communication under the Bilateral Coordination Mechanism (BCM) to promote information exchange and cooperation on sustainable forest management, as well as China-EU forest law enforcement and governance,’ she said. Noting that the BCM ‘helps lay a good foundation for broader cooperation in the future,’ she added that ‘as a responsible nation, China is willing to work together with everyone committed to a green, low carbon and sustainable development.’

‘The EU is cooperating closely with many African producer countries on forest law enforcement, governance and trade. The EU is also collaborating with China under the BCM, which was established in 2009, to stop illegal logging and illegal timber trade globally. This event helped to connect China with FLEGT platforms and processes in Africa, enhancing synergies and mutual understanding. The EU is keen on stronger cooperation between China, Africa and the EU,’ said Ms Vicky Pollard, First Counsellor at the Delegation of the EU to China.

Ms Li Xia, Director of the Division for Asia Pacific Environmental Cooperation at the China- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Environmental Cooperation Centre, expressed the hope that ‘in the future, all commodities on the market will be from sustainable sources, carrying certificates that are bilaterally and multilaterally recognised.’ Noting that China has signed mutual recognition agreements with several Southeast Asian countries, she called for ‘accelerating the speed of the cooperation with Africa so that awareness is raised and public understanding about this issue is enhanced.’ She added that it is ‘not just about realising the true cost of buying cheap timber products,’ noting that ‘every one of us bears our share of responsibility, which includes the fulfilment of environmental obligations.’ She concluded: ‘I believe this day will eventually come through the joint efforts from policy makers, researchers and especially the market players.’

At the event, presentations and ensuing discussions addressed the promotion of sustainable forest management in the cooperation among China, the EU and Africa. Participants stressed the importance of environmental issues within the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes various African countries. Concrete activities and ideas were discussed on exchanging best practices, experiences and technology to promote green development in Africa. The importance of green finance for sustainable forest management was another key theme. Speakers and participants discussed compliance with international financial standards by Chinese banks and the increasing tendency to withdraw investment from projects with deforestation risks. They mentioned various existing mechanisms that could leverage green finance, such as China’s green credit guidelines, the China-Africa Development Fund, and loans designed for small and medium enterprises.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to FLEGT. Panel members from China, Ghana, Cameroon, the United Kingdom and Germany discussed creating synergies among VPA actors in Africa, Chinese governmental institutions and Chinese companies, to promote timber legality, governance and sustainability in Africa. Dr Ralph Ridder, Advisor to the Chinese State Forestry Authority, GIZ, highlighted the key role of China’s Ministry of Commerce in linking China and Africa. Mr Thomas Pichet, Technical Specialist at the Forest Governance, Markets and Climate Programme of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), underlined the importance of awareness raising and information exchanges along the China-Africa supply chain.

Mr Denis Mahonghol, Forest and Trade Officer at TRAFFIC Central Africa, highlighted the importance of activities at the ground level, such as the capacity building of actors along the supply chain and the development of legality verification in China. At the strategic level, he mentioned the use of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation platform to advocate for responsible trade between China and Africa.

‘It’s been an honour for me to share Ghana's FLEGT - VPA success story with our Chinese friends and I look forward to further cooperation between Ghana and China in the near future. I also learned a lot about green financing and the Belt and Road Strategy. It’s great to see how far China has come with including sustainability in its forestry practices,’ said Mr Mawuli Samuel Doe, Systems and Data Reconciliation Manager at the Forestry Commission of Ghana. 
The event concluded with a visit to the China National Timber and Timber Products Quality Supervision and Inspection Center.

The International Workshop on China-Africa Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management took place on 28 and 29 March 2018, in Beijing, China. The event was jointly organised by the EU FLEGT Facility and the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, with financial support from the EU and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China.

It brought together over 80 participants representing China’s Ministries of Ecology and Environment, of Foreign Affairs, of Agriculture, and of Commerce, as well as China’s State Forestry and Grassland Administration, the Chinese Academy of Forestry, the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Centre, the EU FLEGT Facility, GIZ, DFID, the EU Delegation to China, the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, UN Environment, the China Society for Finance and Banking, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Embassy of Ghana to China, Chinese industry associations and non-governmental organisations.