The EU’s agriculture ministers have welcomed the publication of a new EU forest strategy for 2030.
In conclusions adopted during today’s agriculture and fisheries meeting, ministers recognised the need for forests to contribute more to the European Green Deal and global targets such as the 2030 Agenda. In particular, they:
- highlighted the essential role of forests for human health, animal health and a healthy natural environment under the ‘One Health’ approach
- agreed that forestry can play a key role in the EU’s transition to a green, climate neutral and competitive circular bio-economy
- stressed the importance of cooperation and constructive dialogue between member states, the Commission, stakeholders and civil society
- welcomed the new strategy’s emphasis on promoting sustainable wood-based products and the proposal to set up a new partnership for forestry research and innovation.
Nevertheless, the Council’s conclusions also highlighted the need to strike a balance between the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable forest management, and stressed the importance of respecting and maintaining the diversity of forests and forest management practices in different member states and regions. Moreover, the member states expressed doubt about the value of developing national strategic plans for forestry, as envisaged in the Commission’s communication, and encouraged the use of existing international monitoring and reporting processes. Finally, ministers felt that a new EU forest strategy should include an international dimension aimed at curbing global deforestation.
As one of the most densely forested countries in Europe, Slovenia has always appreciated the importance of sustainable forest management. Today’s conclusions reflect the need for all stakeholders to work together and adopt a balanced approach in order to come to terms with the unprecedented challenges facing our forests, while also protecting communities whose livelihoods depend on forest resources.
Jože Podgoršek, Slovenian Minister for Agriculture
On 14 July 2021 the European Commission published the new EU forest strategy for 2030. As one of the flagship elements of the European Green Deal, the initiative builds on the EU’s biodiversity strategy and will form a key part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. In its communication, the Commission sets out a number of proposed measures aimed at increasing the size and quality of Europe’s forests and improving their resilience to challenges such as climate change, while also supporting communities whose livelihood depends on forestry.
The measures proposed by the Commission to restore Europe’s forests and protect forest-based industries include:
- promoting sustainable forest management (SFM), including by encouraging the sustainable use of wood-based resources
- providing financial incentives for forest owners and managers to adopt environmentally friendly practices such as those linked to carbon storage and sequestration
- improving the size and biodiversity of forests, including by planting 3 billion new trees by 2030
- promoting alternative forest industries such as ecotourism, as well as non-wood products such as cork, honey and medicinal plants
- encouraging the take-up of financial support under the Common Agricultural Policy, which can help forests and forest-based industries mitigate against climate change
- providing education and training for people working in forest-based industries and making these industries more attractive to young people
- establishing a legally binding instrument for ecosystem restoration
- protecting the EU’s remaining primary and old-growth forests.
In its communication, the Commission sets out a timetable detailing the concrete steps it will take during the period 2021-2023 to achieve the aims of the new EU forest strategy. It will review the strategy by 2025 to assess progress and determine whether further action is needed. The Council conclusions adopted today call on the Commission to also provide annual updates on the implementation of the strategy, and to involve the Council in any further action that may be taken on the basis of the review.