The European Court of Auditors has published the Special Report 21/2021 assesssing the efficacy of EU efforts to improve biodiversity and tackling climate change in EU forests.

The report makes several recommendations regarding rural development funding, biodiversity measures in EU forests and of particular interest, the EU’s illegal logging regulation.

The implementation of the EU Timber Regulation, the EU’s primary tool for preventing illegally logged timber entering EU markets, comes under some scrutiny. The ECA  noted the very limited information the Commission receives from Member States for which it can analyse the quality of their monitoring. The ECA reviewed the procedures for checking domestic logging in Germany, Spain and Poland to assess the content and extent of the checks. The report states that ‘procedural weaknesses and missing checks reduce the Timber Regulation’s effectiveness in practice’.

The first recommendation on the EUTR, with a timeframe of 2023, is for the Commission to assess potential legislative proposals to strengthen its review of Member State checks on the EUTR.

The Commission has explored the use of remote sensing to detect illegal logging. In 2020, satellite data was used in the Commission’s infringement procedure for illegal logging against Romania that found logging at several Natura 2000 sites had resulted in the loss of protected forest habitats. The report noted however that remote sensing has not been used more generally to monitor illegal logging in the EU. The ECA therefore recommends the more widespread use of geospatial intellegiance and remotes sensing by the Commission and Member States to assure compliance.

The next review of the effectiveness of the EUTR is due in December 2021. We await with interest!