Global Witness calls on China to rethink its import of logs from Solomon Islands

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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

THE fate of Solomon Islands environment lies in the hands of China. In a report called ‘A paradise lost’ by Global Witness, it was predicted that Solomon Islands natural forests are to be exhausted soon and China is to be blamed.

While China is taking serious steps to address environmental degradation and to reduce pollution and carbon emissions at home, they don’t mind causing environmental degradation in the poor pacific nations of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG), the report said.

Virtually all of Solomon Islands’ timber is exported to mainland China, and Solomon Islands is the second biggest source of tropical logs, after PNG. PNG and Solomon Islands supply half of China’s tropical log imports.

The report said at a national conference on environmental protection in 2018, China’s President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s goal of building an ‘ecological civilisation’, leading in global climate governance and drew links between a healthy environment and improved national security. Also in 2017, China extended a ban on commercial logging in natural forests so that it covered the whole of the country.

Logging road in Solomon Islands cover a distance twice the length of China’s Yangtze River, despite Solomon Islands being 338 times smaller than China.

But the report said that the Chinese government is overlooking an important aspect of its ecological footprint.

“The raw materials that it consumes from overseas.”

China is the destination for about two-thirds of all tropical logs globally. Many are said to come from countries like Solomon Islands that are struggling to address governance and rule of law issues.

This report shows that 50 percent of China’s tropical logs come from countries whose forest sectors are plagued with risks of illegality.

“If China continues to buy its wood with ‘no questions asked’, it risks undermining efforts by its trading partners to improve governance, prevent environmental degradation, and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” the report said.

The innovative steps that China is taking to reduce its own carbon emissions will be undermined if it continues to buy so much tropical wood from the Solomon Islands.

The NGO Global Witness therefore make a call on China to require its timber importers to carry out checks to ensure that the timber they buy, is at a minimum, legal in its country of origin. Time is running out for China, both to protect the forests of the Solomon Islands it profits from and its position as a leader and pioneer on the global trade and environmental landscape.

“Indeed, 77 percent of the Solomon Islands’ greenhouse gas emissions come from forestry and land-use changes. By not questioning the illegal activity businesses are taking part in, China enormously increases the commercial and reputational risks to its businesses and those they trade with,” Global Witness said.

Global Witness is an international NGO established in 1993 that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide.

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