World Rainforest Movement

Certification debate in Europe: PEFC vs. FSC

The Pan European Forest Certification Scheme (PEFC) was presented on April 20 at a seminar in Wuerzburg Germany. The scheme, set up by forest owners and part of forestry industries, is meant to present an alternative to the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council Scheme) scheme. Forest owners claim the FSC scheme is not suitable to deal with small-scale forestry, and is too much led by NGOs.

However, environmental NGOs as well as some sectors of the forestry industry and the unions have expressed strong reservations about the scheme. They say it is not clear yet whether this scheme will lead to an improvement of forest management in Europe.

The two-day seminar consisted of a day of lectures, comprising over 20 lectures in one day, and a day of consultative workshops. It was made clear by the president of the German Forestry Council, Hermann Ilander, and several other speakers representing the PEFC that there was a strong feeling among forest owners that ‘after 9 months of hard work’ the baby was born. It was therefore with some proud that they presented a PEFC logo. However, a joint press release launched that same morning, by German NGOs made clear that these NGOs felt there was no reason yet to celebrate as they denounced the initiative.

What became apparent was that, although the PEFC has been officially presented, there is as yet no system in place. There are no certification standards, no chain of custody and no control mechanism. The different national schemes which will fall under the PEFC umbrella are yet too far apart to find a common standard, with the Nordic countries well ahead of the rest.

The most surprising speaker of the first day was Christian Anz who spoke on behalf of the European Commission. Although he stated that the European Commission cannot support only one scheme, he expressed strong support for this scheme, naming it credible and transparent. The only conclusion one can reach is that he had not read any of the accompanying documents.

The Forest Movement Europe’s (FME) position was explained by Saskia Ozinga. She made clear that none of the European NGOs in the FME could support this scheme, as it lacked the basic elements any certification scheme should have. She encouraged forest owners to join the FSC process, thereby ensuring it would meet their needs. The UK was held up as an example, where over the last three years bridges have been built between the NGO community and the forest owners and forestry industry in developing compatible standards of sustainable forest management for the UK.

Source: FERN/WRM Northern Office 27/4/99