Greenpeace activists scale Admiralty Arch as investigation exposes Government's use of illegal timber. The Prime Minister's efforts to portray himself as an environmental champion suffered another set-back today as Greenpeace revealed that the renovation of his own Cabinet Office building is using illegally logged rainforest timber. The refurbishment is using plywood hoardings made with illegally logged timber sourced from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. The Whitehall building is home to Mr Blair's own Strategy Unit.

At 6.45am this morning fourteen Greenpeace climbers scaled the Admiralty Arch wing of the building. The volunteers have hung a huge banner which reads: ‘REPEAT OFFENDER! BLAIR’S TRASHED ANOTHER RAINFOREST!’

Other activists are covering the rainforest timber with plywood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Greenpeace executive director Stephen Tindale said: “When it comes to trashing the world’s last rainforests Tony Blair is a serial offender. It’s hard to believe illegal and unsustainable timber has been found at the home of his own strategy unit. What better illustration could there be that his Government’s timber procurement policy is totally ineffectual? Blair has a history of talking up his green credentials, but it’s about time he actually took effective action. The first thing he needs to do is to ban the import of illegal timber into the UK market place.”

The Greenpeace volunteers have hoisted their own campaign flag on the famous Admiralty flagpole in the hope that Britain can lead the world in forest protection. Central government procurement accounts for approximately 20% of the timber used in the UK, while the broader public sector accounts for as much as 40%.

In 2001 Tony Blair promised that the Government would only purchase legal and sustainable timber. This commitment followed the introduction of a timber procurement policy the previous year, requiring all departments and agencies to 'actively seek' to buy such timber.

However, a combination of weak guidelines and failed implementation has meant that the impact of the policy remains limited and in the case of the plywood at Admiralty Arch is failing to prevent illegal timber from being used.

The magnificent forests of Papua New Guinea form part of the few remaining significant ancient forests on earth. It is home to wildlife such as the tree kangaroo, the world’s largest pigeon, the largest butterfly on earth (the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, with a wing span of over 11 inches) and the world’s longest lizard, along with over 3000 species of orchid. But so-called ‘robber barons’ are plundering the rainforest with impunity. Their crimes range from illegal logging to corruption, torture and rape. A World Bank funded independent review examining logging in Papua New Guinea found widespread and serious illegalities across the industry.

These findings were reinforced by a UK Government funded report which found extensive environmental damage, corruption and social upheaval in logging areas.

Greenpeace is calling on the Government to finally take effective action to end its role in forest destruction by ensuring that it uses only FSC-certified timber on its construction sites and introducing a ban on the import of illegal timber into the UK – the only way to stop this destructive trade.


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