Remarks by Commissioners Sinkevičius and Hoekstra at the press conference on the Forest Monitoring Law

Speech, 22 November 2023, Brussels – Source, European Commission

Commissioner Sinkevičius

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for your interest.

We are here today on an important occasion for our forests. The Commission added another valuable element to consolidate the European Green Deal.

We adopted a proposed Regulation on a Monitoring Framework for Resilient European Forests.

This proposal will facilitate the collection and sharing of timely and comparable forest data that we so urgently need in Europe.

Let me briefly walk you through it.

The framework will have two main pillars.

The first pillar will be forest data for which the Commission takes the lead, with standardised data based on Earth observation systems like Copernicus. That service will be free of charge for Member States and other users.

The second pillar will be forest data collected by the Member States, largely taken from National Forest inventories.

We’ll ensure comparability by requiring Member States to share their data in a harmonised way.

Yet, we are not replacing national systems.

We’re building on them to deliver a comprehensive, EU-wide system for the very first time.


Having healthy forests is a “must have” for a healthy planet.

They provide vital resources and livelihoods for millions, but they are hugely important for EU policy objectives as well.

Forests help regulate the water cycle, sustain water supply and maintain water quality.

They also play a vital role in helping us reach climate neutrality by 2050 and building a nature-positive economy.

But with biodiversity loss and climate change gathering pace, our landscapes are undergoing dramatic change.

Catastrophic events like wildfires, pest outbreaks, droughts and heatwaves are made worse by climate change, and by over-exploitation of forest resources.

The greater the pressures on forests, the more we undermine their resilience, and the more we compromise their ability to deliver the services we need.

Right now, our forests are becoming a victim of these crises.

The new report by the Joint Research Centre, that is also published today shows that in 2022 nearly 900,000 hectares of land was burnt in Europe. This is roughly the size of Corsica.

For a third year in a row, unprecedented wildfire events cause large environmental and economic damage in the EU and tragic loss of life.

With this new Regulation, we want to help ensure that forests are not victims nor bearers of bad news, but they become part of the solution instead.


For this change to happen, we need much better information.

We need the best possible knowledge about the status of forests, about trends, and about how they are responding to climate change.

At present there are no comprehensive monitoring requirements to provide an overall picture of the state of our forests.

This gap also affects the capacity of Member States to ensure strategic planning on forest, and to account for their multitude of functions.

What we need is high-quality data that is comprehensive, timely, and easy to compare.

Everyone will benefit from the change, not just policymakers but the entire forest-based sector.

And we now have the capability to deliver it.

Technological progress in Earth observation means we can now modernise, digitalise and harmonise the monitoring of forests and stimulate new skills, including for SMEs in the EU.

The framework will also support the implementation of existing legislation such as the Deforestation Regulation and the Habitats Directive.

That means a lower administrative burden for Member States, especially for Member States with lower administrative capabilities.

Lastly, we’re encouraging Member States to take an integrated, long-term approach to their planning.

We are encouraging them to develop or adjust their forest plans using a long-term perspective, based on common aspects like biodiversity, climate change and the bioeconomy.


In Europe we talk a lot about wanting to lead on the global stage.

What we propose today will help us do that. It shows Europe is taking an integrated approach.

We’re respecting subsidiarity, but we’re drawing on Europe’s strengths to integrate our resources and deliver a tool that’s useful for the EU as a whole.

I’ll be very happy to take any questions you have on the details of the Regulation.

Thank you.


Commissioner Hoekstra

Thank you very much Virginijus, and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon from Strasbourg.

I’ll be relatively brief, because I very much agree of course on the things that Virginijus has just shared with all of you.

As a matter of fact indeed, forests do play a massive role in reaching: one, climate neutrality by 2050; and two, reversing biodiversity loss.

You could say that forests are a very important natural carbon sink.

They help us reduce the impacts of climate change, for example when we are talking about the topic of cooling down cities.

Healthy and resilient forests can also protect us from heavy flooding and reduce the impact of droughts.


But the unfortunate reality is that Europe’s forests suffer from many different pressures, which are made worse by climate change.

And if you would just consider for a minute: wildfires.

It is of course human actions which cause these wildfires, but climate change makes the forests more prone to catching fire in the first place, and the wildfires themselves are actually much more difficult to contain.

These are warnings of what global warming can actually bring, as temperatures increase and droughts become more prolonged and more pronounced across the world, but also across our own Union.

Moreover, information provided under the regulation on Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry, already tell us that the forest carbon sink is declining unfortunately in several key areas across the Union.

That is a trend, ladies and gentlemen, that does need to be reversed.

As you know, under Fit for 55, Member States will have to grow their natural carbon sink.

That simply includes improving the resilience of forests all across our Union.

For this, we need the best possible knowledge about our forests: we need to know their status, the trends and the actual impacts of climate change.


As was just said, in explaining the various elements of the Law, it is good to also articulate that the framework will help to build a business case for foresters.

It will complement, I would say, the proposed framework for carbon removal certification which will be voted on today in Parliament here in Strasbourg.

The carbon removal framework will create a financial incentive to invest in the resilience of our forests.

That’s an economic proposition to the ones for climate and biodiversity.


The carbon removal certificates are then linked to specific plots of forest.

So, it is important to collect data on the quality of our forests.

Because this will simply help foresters to the maximum extent possible, to earn money with carbon removals that are verified and certified – as they should be.

The forest monitoring law will also support the implementation of several other laws: Virginijus was already mentioning LULUCF as well as the Deforestation and Nature Restoration.

In a similar vein, the proposal is complementary to the Soil Monitoring Law.


This law is likewise relevant for carbon removals, and it also builds on satellite and ground data to assess the actual health of our soil.

In terms of implementing the forest monitoring proposal itself, we have of course carefully looked how we can help reduce the overall administrative burden for Member States, as we should.

In fact, the Commission is offering help with this proposal – we are not leaving Member States alone on this.


Also a key element of the proposal is the use of our EU Earth observation technologies (the Copernicus satellites).

Combined with good quality ground data, these can provide reliable and readily information on the coverage and condition of European forests.

This approach keeps down the administrative costs for Member States, since they don’t need to independently develop these types of tools.

I think that is an absolute win.

Finally, I think it is important to stress that this EU monitoring framework will not replace existing national systems.

It will not create duplications but complements, and I would argue, reinforces what already exists in already all Member States at a national level.


So ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, this is a proposal that we are convinced, truly helps us against the pressures that are threatening European forests.

It is relevant, it is necessary, as forests are an important – potential – ally in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

For our water to be clean, our soils to be rich, we need healthy forests.

Let me close there, and thank you very much.

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