China moves to stop illegal logging trade

Beijing shifts toward sustainable lumber certification

One of a series of articles on the future of the B.C. forest industry. For more #BCForestFuture stories see index below or search for the hashtag on Facebook or Twitter.

BEIJING – The Chinese government is moving to sustainable forest certification of wood products, both harvested at home and imported from other countries, officials told a conference on illegal logging in the capital this week.

That includes a crackdown on countries that don’t have the will or ability to regulate rampant unregulated logging, said Fu Jinquan of China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA). China has sealed its borders against log imports from Myanmar [Burma], and is moving toward forest certification for other exporting countries.

China’s direction was discussed at a forum on illegal logging and forest trade co-sponsored by China and Canada, including B.C. Forests Minister Steve Thomson and representatives from the Canadian Forest Service.

Thomson and B.C. deputy forests minister Tim Sheldan described B.C.’s multiple international certification programs for forest products and its independent Forest Practices Board, which audits logging for wildlife protection, harvest level and replanting.

Construction of Brock Commons, an 18-floor student residence at UBC using prefabricated wood panels produced by Penticton-based Structurlam. FPInnovations photo

Representatives of the Canadian forest industry also described the benefits of wood construction on the environment, as the Chinese government moves to impose greenhouse gas and pollution targets on its smog-choked major cities.

Zhu Guangquian, chairman of China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association, described the impact of concrete and steel construction on China’s vast urban development program. At the current pace of development, China uses as much concrete in two years as the United States does in a century, he said.

“If we don’t develop timber resources now, we will owe a big debt to the future,” Zhu said.

The Dec, 2 conference marked the first time China had invited non-government participation, with representatives of the China offices of Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund among those attending.

Wang Lei of WWF China asked about the potential for wooden high-rise construction in addition to mid- and low-rise buildings such as schools and retirement homes already planned by the Chinese government.

Rick Jeffery, CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association, describe the 18-storey student residence recently completed at the University of B.C.. currently the tallest wood-constructed building in the world.

Construction costs are competitive with concrete and steel, operating costs are lower and wood construction captures carbon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building process, Jeffery said.

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