New inquiry into timber industry and global forests

27 July 2022

A new parliamentary inquiry will examine the vital link between a sustainable and thriving UK forestry and wood industry, and tackling future global deforestation.

Confor is delighted that the inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee is taking place, as it will address many crucial questions highlighted by Confor repeatedly in recent years.

Stuart Goodall, CEO of Confor, 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.

"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 remit for the inquiry, Sustainable timber and deforestation, says: “With global timber demand set to quadruple by 2050, and given the commitment to promote timber use in construction as part of the UK’s Net Zero Strategy, domestic demand is also likely to increase. However, the UK is the second highest importer of wood in the world, importing 82% of all its timber in 2020.

"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 committee says it “will explore how best to scale up a sustainable and resilient domestic timber sector to reduce reliance on imports, whilst also achieving its wider nature recovery and biodiversity goals through woodland creation”.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, 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% 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."

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?

Mr Goodall concluded: “These are exactly the questions Confor has been asking, and supporting efforts to answer, for years - to develop a forestry and wood industry that delivers multiple benefits for our environment, economy and society.

Parliament has the opportunity now to undertake a robust assessment of the issue and send a strong and clear message to Government that is finally time for action.”