Source: EU Commission
What is the new EU Forest Strategy post 2020?
Forests are an essential ally in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss: They function as carbon sinks and reduce the impacts of climate change, for example by cooling down cities, protecting us from heavy flooding, and reducing drought impact.
Forests are valuable ecosystems that are home to a major part of Europe's biodiversity and their ecosystem services contribute to our health and well-being through water regulation, the provision of food, medicines and materials, disaster risk reduction and control, soil stabilisation and erosion control, air and water purification. Forests are a place for recreation, relaxation and learning, as well as securing livelihoods.
The new EU Forest Strategy for 2030 is one of the European Green Deal flagship initiatives that builds on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and addresses all the multiple functions of forests. It contributes to achieving the EU's greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 55% in 2030 and climate-neutrality in 2050, and to the EU's commitment to enhance its removals by natural sinks as per the Climate Law.
The strategy sets a vision and concrete actions for increasing the quantity and quality of forests in the EU and strengthening their protection, restoration and resilience. It aims to adapt Europe's forests to new conditions, weather extremes and high uncertainty brought about by climate change. This is a precondition for forests to be able to continue delivering on their socio-economic functions and to ensure vibrant rural areas and thriving rural populations.
Promoting the most biodiversity and climate-friendly forest management practices will be done hand in hand and in synergy with supporting a strong and sustainable forest-based bioeconomy. Wood-based industries represent 20% of manufacturing enterprises across the EU, supporting 3.6 million jobs, with an annual turnover of EUR 640 billion. The strategy calls for the optimal wood use in line with the cascading principle and prioritises wood products that can replace their fossil-based counterparts, with particular focus on long-lived wood products. It also aims to boost the non-wood forest economy, including ecotourism.
The strategy reaffirms the need and commitment to strictly protect the last remaining primary and old-growth forests in the EU. While this includes only a small part of EU's forests, it will help to ensure that the main biodiversity reservoirs and important carbon stocks are well preserved for future generations. The strategy also sets out actions to enhance the sustainable forest management concept on climate and biodiversity related aspects, promotes the most climate and biodiversity friendly forest management practices as well as foresees the establishment of binding nature restoration targets for forests in the upcoming EU Nature Restoration Law as announced in the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.
The strategy also foresees the development of payment schemes to forest owners and managers for providing ecosystems services, e.g. through keeping parts of their forests intact. It calls on Member States to set up, inter alia, under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), payment schemes for ecosystem services for forest owners and managers in order to cover for costs and income foregone. It also calls on Member States to accelerate the roll out of carbon farming practices, for instance via CAP's eco-schemes on agroforestry or rural development interventions. A dedicated carbon farming initiative, announced in the Farm to Fork Strategy and to be presented by the Commission at the end of the 2021, will further promote a new green business model that rewards climate- and environment-friendly practices by land managers, including forest managers and owners, based on the climate benefits they provide. In close cooperation with Member States and forest stakeholders, guidance on closer-to-nature forestry practices will be developed and their uptake promoted though a voluntary certification scheme.
Also a set of other enablers is put forward, ranging from research and training to guidance and advisory services. These will create the right conditions for improving the state of EU forests. In addition, the updated governance structure for forests will create a more inclusive space for Member States, forest owners and managers, industry, academia and civil society to discuss about the future of forests in the EU and help maintain these valuable assets for the generations to come.
The strategy is accompanied by a roadmap for planting at least 3 billion additional trees in the EU by 2030, in full respect for ecological principles.
In order to have a comprehensive and comparable picture of the state, the evolution and the envisaged future developments of forests in the EU, the Forest Strategy announces a legal proposal on Forest Observation, Reporting and Data Collection in the EU. Harmonised EU data collection system, combined with strategic planning at Members States' level is paramount to making sure that forests can deliver on their multiple functions for climate, biodiversity and economy as agreed at the EU level.
Last but not least, the Commission is strengthening enforcement actions, to make sure that EU Member States apply the EU law on forest protection and timber marketing.
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