In 2012 the United Nations declared 21 March as the International Day of Forests to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.
According to the UN, “forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people –including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures– depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter”.
Many aspects of our daily lives are linked to forests, even if we are not aware of this connection: when we drink a glass of water, or when we use paper, for example. The relation is there although it may not be obvious. But not just that. Forests offer a perfect place to relax, to enjoy nature. They contribute to our well-being, both physical and psychologically. People around the world have cultural and spiritual associations with forests.
Forests are essential in the fight against climate change. Sustainably managed forests are linked directly to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. They act as carbon sinks, they purify water, conserve biodiversity, produce food, generate jobs, clean and affordable energy as well as sustainable and renewable material.
In Europe, the forest area and other wooded land has been growing in the last few decades and covers about 45% of EU land. Nevertheless, according to the European Commission, “forest ecosystems are under increasing pressure as a result of climate change, which aggravates other key drivers of pressures such as pests, diseases, extreme weather events and forest fires. Other pressures come from rural abandonment, lack of management and fragmentation due to land use changes, increasing management intensity due to rising demand for wood, forest products and energy, infrastructure development, urbanisation and land take…”.
Hopefully the much-anticipated European Forest Strategy, will address these issues. To help in understanding the views of European citizen on the matter, the European Commission has launched an open consultation focused on the EU territory. It will be complementary to the results of the Eurobarometer survey “on the current role and benefits of the EU’s forests and the activities set out in the Communication on Stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests”. In this consultation citizens and organisations are invited to share their opinions on the potential objectives and actions of the new EU Forest Strategy until 19 April 2021.