New EU Forest Strategy for 2030
The European Commission released the Communication for the New EU Forest Strategy 2030. It is part of the “Fit for 55 Package” which falls under the European Green Deal.
New EU Forest Strategy for 2030
Last Friday (16-07-2021), the European Commission released the Communication for the New EU Forest Strategy 2030. This strategy is part of the “Fit for 55 Package”, which aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of 1990 with 55% by 2030. This package is in turn a presentation of the reduction targets following the revisions and initiatives of the European Green Deal. In other words, it contains the practical actions the European Commission wants to take to move towards a climate-neutral Europe. The “Fit for 55 Package” will be discussed by the European Parliament and Member States in the upcoming months and it will have to be approved.
The Forest Strategy acknowledges the importance of large, healthy, and more diverse forests for carbon storage and sequestration, reduction of the effects of air pollution on human health and halting loss of habitats and species.
The Forest Strategy acknowledges the importance of large, healthy, and more diverse forests for carbon storage and sequestration, reduction of the effects of air pollution on human health and halting loss of habitats and species. This will allow the forests to provide livelihood and boost socio-economic benefits. The Forest Strategy does not only safeguard the natural habitats but also encourages cutting down forests – albeit sustainably.
These high ambitions are part of the EU’s effort to be a leading figure on the climate agenda and the European Commission’s aims to work closely with global partners to work towards forest protection and sustainable forest management.
EUROPARC expects that in the implementation of this strategy, sufficient attention will be paid to the important role forests play for biodiversity, wildlife, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. It welcomes the development of sustainable economic opportunities for local authorities, although this should be done with caution.
Bio-based economy boost
A big part of the Strategy is the forest bio-based economy boost, which aims to produce sustainable wood and non-wood materials, which includes eco-tourism. According to the Strategy, sustainably-produced and long-lived wood-based products can help achieving climate neutrality by storing carbon and substituting fossil-based materials. The role of wood products will turn the construction sector from a source of greenhouse gasses to a carbon sink.
Another bio-economic benefit the Forest Strategy has set its arrows on is the use of biofuels, where no effective wood material utilisation is possible. Biofuel is a hot topic amongst conservationists because it involves cutting down trees. However, it is positive to note that to ensure nature protection purposes are not limited, the biomass for this purpose is prohibited in primary forests, and the use of whole trees is to be minimised.
Management practices and skills training
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 has the ambitious goal to protect 30% of the land area, of which 10% will be strictly protected. The Forest Strategy outlines that all primary and old growth forests should be part of this 10%. However, the definition of these forests is not set yet, nor are the locations of these forests mapped. Forest management that preserves biodiversity and ensures resilient ecosystems is one of the key values of the Strategy. In terms of management practices, the Strategy wants to enforce resilient forests that can deliver their environmental and socio-economic functions. This contains management practices such as uneven-aged and continuous-cover forestry, enough deadwood, regulation of wildlife densities and the establishment of protected habitat patches. Together with the Member States and different forest stakeholders, the European Commission will develop Guidelines on closer-to-nature forestry and a closer-to-nature voluntary certification scheme, so the most biodiversity-friendly management practices benefit from an EU quality label. Another part of the strategy is re- and afforestation and includes the planting of 3 billion additional trees by 2030.
As part of the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the Commission will propose a legally binding instrument for ecosystem restoration at the end of 2021. This will include forest ecosystems, and also others with high potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters. Furthermore, the European Commission will encourage all forest stakeholders to join the Pact for Skills to improve the managemental skillset of the stakeholders. Member States can use the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) to equip people with these skills or enhance employment and entrepreneurship. Financial incentives will be developed, particularly for private forest owners and managers, to provide these ecosystem services.
Other focal points of the Forest Strategy include an improvement of the now insufficient monitoring practices and a proposal for research and innovation partnership on forestry. The forest governance framework is updated in a way that promotes policy coherence and synergies between actors. This also includes bringing together the Standing Forestry Committee and the Working Group on Forest and Nature. The European Commission additionally aims for better synergies with the Expert Group on Forest-based Industries Sector-related Issues. Apart from this, Member States are encouraged to establish multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms. Lastly, implementation and enforcement of existing European rules and regulations are improved, especially to halt illegal logging.
EUROPARC expects that in the implementation of this strategy, sufficient attention will be paid to the important role forests play for biodiversity, wildlife, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Implementation withing Green Deal framework
All in all, the forest strategy acknowledges the importance of forests for preserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change. At the same time, it promotes the sustainable exploitation of wood and-non wood products, whilst setting up a framework to communicate with the Member States, forest managers and other stakeholders.
According to EUROPARC, the biodiversity of the forests and delivery of ecosystem services should remain a priority in Protected Area management: economical activities managed by local communities can be welcomed in Protected Areas but must be agreed and implemented in partnership with Protected areas’ authorities.
The Member States are encouraged to set up payment schemes for forest managers, as well as to boost carbon farming practices. EUROPARC underlines the importance of Member States adhering to the objectives set in the Biodiversity Strategy, and that the European Commission controls and guarantees the consistency of the national implementation with the EU Green Deal framework.
Click here to read the Management Recommendations and FAQs of LIFE Red Bosques, a project that aims to improve the management of Spanish Mediterranean forests included in the Natura 2000 network. They have released these documents prior the release of the EU Forest Strategy for 2030 and underline the importance of protecting the biodiversity of Mature Forests.