On 14 and 15 October, Agricultural Ministers of EU Member States exchanged views on the future EU Forest Strategy post-2020. During this discussion, Ministers supported the preparation of a new and stronger framework to further coordinate EU and national policies in the area of forestry. To this end, Ministers called for a "holistic" approach, which would take into account all existing related initiatives. In addition, they called for consistency at EU level to avoid the fragmentation of forestry-related legislation in different EU Member States. The promotion of sustainable forest management emerged as the backbone of the future strategy. Ministers highlighted the important contribution of forests towards the implementation of the European Green Deal, the promotion of the bioeconomy and circular economy and towards achieving EU international commitments, particularly those concerning climate change, such as the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.
In October as well, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion on the Commission progress report on the implementation of the EU Forest Strategy. In its key points, the EESC:
- calls for an updated EU Forest Strategy after 2020, which could feasibly look ahead to 2050, to ensure coherent implementation of well-recognized political commitments such as the UN Strategic Plan for Forests, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. The importance of forests, forestry and forest-based industries in meeting these goals should be recognized across all sectors and lead to optimized cross-sectoral cooperation;
- underlines the importance of the multifunctional role of forests and notes that climate change is a threat to ecosystem services. A solid mix of financial instruments is crucial to ensuring continued investment in modern technology as well as in climate and environmental measures to strengthen the multifunctional role of forests. When it comes to private forest holdings, it is crucial to ensure that property rights are respected, and decisions related to forests are made in partnership with forest owners;
- recommends a mapping of the current status of the workforce and a forecasting of labour needs in the European forest-based sector. Decent jobs and labour conditions are a prerequisite to attract young people to the forest-based sector;
- stresses the importance of reducing global deforestation by strengthening sustainable forest management, for example through a pan-European agreement, mobilising locally produced biomass in Europe and supporting the transition towards more sustainable consumer patterns.
Consequently, earlier in 2019, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted its opinion on the implementation of the EU Forest Strategy. CoR highlights the key role of forests in the development of the bioeconomy and biodiversity. It also stresses the importance of the regions in the transition to a low-carbon, green economy. In addition, local and regional governments could contribute to, e.g. regional sustainable development plans, bioeconomy strategies, education, ecologically sustainable construction, carbon sequestration in long-life wood products, renewable energy deployment and the promotion of SME entrepreneurship in the forest sector. The opinion also calls for the closer involvement of local and regional authorities as it comes to the implementation of forestry measures of Common Agricultural Policy and Rural Development. It also stresses the importance of forest owners and managers in strengthening the sustainable use of forests to benefit e.g. rural population and economies.
CEPF welcomes the above-mentioned conclusions and opinions and reiterate that, alongside the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, it is essential to update the EU Forest Strategy and to give it appropriate recognition as a part of the European Green Deal. For further information, please refer to the joint statement entitled multifunctional European forests are crucial to reach the objectives of the European Green Deal.
Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee’s on the EC Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Forest Strategy