Fig.1. Trend of the forest certification process in Ukraine from 2001 to 2015
According to the public data of Forest Stewardship council (FSC) as of 15/10/2016, 24 owners of FSC-certificates of forest lands with the status "valid" are registered in Ukraine, part of them is valid until the end of 2021.
According to the expert rating of Ukrainian biofuel portal, today voluntary forest certification scheme is the most common in the world exactly according to FSC standards, non-governmental non-profit organization founded in 1993. FSC-certification covers 81 countries now. This system allows consumers to identify, acquire and use wood, paper and other forest products made from "well managed forests" and/or recycled (secondary) materials from the trusted sources.
Over the last years state and national certification schemes for the forest lands and wood exploitation products have been created. Besides, FSC-certification, Pan European certification system (PEFC, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI, the USA) and Canadian Standards Association of Sustainable Forest Management standards (CSA SFM, Canada) are three the most common schemes of tracking the legal origin of timber and timber products in the world. All these certification schemes do not contradict each other and are mutually recognized. There is a simplified certification for each system, if there are other certificates of conformity to the other.
The independent certification system of sustainable forest management and the legal origin of wood on the requirements of FSC is the most common in Ukraine.
According to the statistics of the State Forest Resources Agency of Ukraine, nowadays 2958291 ha of Ukrainian forest lands have been certified by the FSC, covering almost thirds of the country's forest resources (28,45%). Volatility of growth of certified forest lands in Ukraine from 2001 through 2015 (see Fig.1) is explained by uneven interest in the export of wood products and non-confirmation of the certificates as a result of the annual audits by the certification authorities for violations of the declared data. The current activation is explained by the desire of domestic producers to increase exports to the EU countries thanks for the certificates of the desk review according FSC procedure.
Fig.2 shows data of the certified forest lands by the regions of Ukraine. They are located unevenly and mainly concentrated in the western and northern regions of Ukraine. The level of certification is less than 1% in the unspecified regions in the diagram.
FSC certification is based on the independent valuation by the mandatory organization according to 10 internationally recognized principles and 56 criteria for responsible forest management. Only three international certification companies - "SGS" with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, "NEPCon" headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark and "Forest Certification" (Russia, Moscow) have used the right of forest lands certification in Ukraine according to the FSC standard.
Fig.2. shows statistics of the certified forest lands by the regions of Ukraine.
FSC developed international labeling system FSC for woodworking products, which most large organizations of buyers in North America and Europe require, especially those who supply goods to the final (individual) customers. Therefore, FSC certification of woodworking products including wood pellets – is a kind of a pass to the European and North American markets.
There are three types of FSC certificates: responsible forest management certification (FSC FM, Forest Management); Chain of Custody Certification from the producer to the consumer (FSC CoC, Chain of Custody) and, in addition, FSC introduced the mixed certificates (FSC-mix) a few years ago, where at least 70% of wood comes from a "well-managed forests", and the rest - from the so-called "controlled forests" with a minimum level of illegal forest devastation. Loggers, having their own processing facilities, usually collect mixed FM/CoC certificate.
FSC standards cover all products, including wood pellets, falling within EU Timber Regulation № 995/2010, both within products from the list according to Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the classification of EU Common Nomenclature Timber and timber products: "4401 - Fuel wood, in logs, in billets, in twigs, in faggots or in similar forms; wood in chips or particles; sawdust and wood waste and scrap, whether or not agglomerated in logs, briquettes, pellets or similar forms”.
According to the data obtained by the analytics of Ukrainian Biofuel Portal from Pavel Kravets - the National representative of FSC in Ukraine, more than 140 forest certificates certificates for the products of Wood and Timber trade companies have been issued in Ukraine, 6 companies of which produce fuel pellets or briquettes.
Currently a new version of FSC-STD-40-004 standard (version 3) is being prepared, introducing more severe requirements for the forest management and verification of good faith compliance with the declared supply chains. Supplies additional verification of transactions on the basis of OCP online platform (Online Claim Platform) is among the innovations.
National forest management standard fully harmonized with the FSC principles and criteria is being developed in Ukraine. Its adoption is expected in 2018. It aims to eliminate some inconsistencies of FSC procedures to the current legislation of Ukraine.
Besides, a new version of supply chain standard is at the final stage of the enactment, which will substitute "all-Union State Standard ISO 28000:2008. security management systems for the сhain of сustody. Requirements ISO 28000:2007, IDT)".
The State Agency of forest resources of Ukraine in cooperation with the National FSC office in Ukraine are preparing order of Ministry of Agrarian Policy of Ukraine "On the procedure for organizing and conducting a voluntary forest certification", designed to streamline the examination procedure of Forestry of Ukraine.
Wood pellets quality standards (for example, ENplus series) and certification of the SBP member (Sustainable Biomass Partnership / Partnership for sustainable biomass) for solid fuel wholesale supply to the power plant (which precedes certification FSC and/or PEFC) should not be mixed with forest management quality certification forestry or the wood origin confirmation according to FSC standards.
Certification according to the rules of FSC is a strictly voluntary thing; however, it gives new opportunities for wood pellets export to the EC markets. Access to these markets is getting tougher all the time. According to the FSC estimation, Ukraine belongs to the countries with the high level of violations of forest management standards and a high risk of illegal wood origin (for example, as a result of illegal logging). EU Timber Regulation № 995/2010 prohibits placing on the market illegally harvested wood, therefore, trade organizations and end-users in the EU increasingly require the certification document ensuring the Legal origin of wood.
When deciding on a voluntary certification, It should be also taken into account that the many restrictive requirements for forestry in compliance with the Forest Code and effective legislation of Ukraine may be introduced by a simple decision of the Cabinet.