On May 20th, the same day the European Commission (EC) released its new Biodiversity Strategy and a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system, the European Forest Institute hosted their first Think Forest webinar. There, 88% of the 125 participants overwhelmingly agreed that the European Green Deal needed updating to include forest bioeconomy.
Two days before, on May 18th, CEPF, the Confederation of European Forest Owners had joined the cause of the European Forest-based Ecosystem and had co-signed a proposal calling on the European Commission to give a dedicated space and recognition to the Forest-based industries in the forthcoming EU European Recovery Plan and New Industrial Strategy for Europe.
The bold new plan drawn by the EC includes planting 3 billion extra trees, expanding organic farming and fines for not reaching objectives to restore nature. The EC’s vice-president for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans tied the plan to avoiding future pandemics like the Covid-19 crisis: “The biodiversity strategy is essential for boosting our resilience and preventing the emergence and spread of future diseases such as zoonoses. Because by destroying nature at an unprecedented rate, and now with around 1 million species at risk of extinction within only decades, we literally threaten our own life, our health and our well-being,” he said in a press conference.
The following is stated in an article published on the press corner of the European Commission official website, “the strategy is a central element of the EU’s recovery plan, crucial to preventing and building resilience to future outbreaks and providing immediate business and investment opportunities for restoring the EU’s economy”. The same article, that reviews the new biodiversity and farm to fork strategy, says that “European farmers, fishers, and aquaculture producers are key in the transition to a more equitable and sustainable food system and that they will get support from the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy through new streams of funding and eco-schemes to take up sustainable practices”, not making any reference to the forest-based industrial ecosystem or the forest bioeconomy.
All of this reveals that the forest bioeconomy as an important missing link in the Green Deal. Speakers and panellists at the EFI webinar agreed that the EU Green Deal “is welcome and necessary, but it needs updating to be even stronger, especially in the light of the need of recovery from COVID-19 caused economic slump”.
In Europe, the forestry-based industry accounts for more than 420,000 enterprises, 3.5 million of direct employees and generates an annual turnover of 520 billion euros, (3% of the EU GDP), according to the CEPF.