The European Commission’s Green Deal presents a great opportunity for the forestry industry, and it is time to seize the momentum. This was the core message of the European Forest Institute’s event “The future of plantation forests in Europe”, held in Brussels on December 17th. The new president of ThinkForest, Janez Potocnik, in charge of introducing and concluding the meeting, referred to the opportunities the Green Deal delivers but pointed out that its success will depend on how well the social angle is tackled.
The new approach that the European Green Deal implies in terms of forestry policymaking for the EU was the event’s motto. It outlines the main ways to approach and handle the climate and environmental challenges that Europe –and the world– face. In words of the European Commission communicate, the European Green Deal draws a “new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use”.
At the EFI’s event, Mihail Dumitru, from the DG Agriculture and Rural Development of the EC, spoke on the role of Common Agricultural Policy, how important forests are for sustainability and EU climate priorities and the status in the achievement of the main EU objectives in the Green Deal.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of the conclusions of EFI’s study Plantation forests in Europe: challenges and opportunities by Professor Peter Freer-Smith, University of California Davis, who stressed the key role of plantation forests in meeting the market demands and taking the pressure off natural forests.
According to the study, that can be freely downloaded here, “in Europe, the area of plantation forestry is increasing, together with the proportion of roundwood and other ecosystem services provided”, and there is scientific evidence that sustainably managed plantations as part of a landscape-scale mosaic have a huge potential “to deliver against Europe’s emerging policy priorities”.
The event was complemented with a discussion panel on which four basic statements were debated:
- The current public image of the plantations, which has improved in the last five years but which has a much better perception in the southern hemisphere.
- The need for Integrated Management, related to producing timber efficiently and profitably while maintaining ecosystems. Also, considering socio-economic development, creating shared value for communities, restoring degraded and deforested land and contributing to climate change mitigation.
- The need for more land sharing with the focus on multi-dimensional landscapes, making forestry profitable by support, involving along with forest engineers and experts, landscape architects, ecologists and social scientists. The land-sparing concept to lower pressure on natural forests was also an item.
- Wood as a substitute for other materials. Here the emphasis must be made on the benefits of using wood as a resource, its potential as a CO2 sink and its renewability. Then on, why it is necessary to harvest woods.
Priority actions on how to move sustainable plantations into the future were discussed, with an emphasis on the importance of social learning and the many challenges that working with small forest owners pose in areas where forestry is not profitable. In these cases, integrating Ecosystem Services over wood production is, no doubt, the major challenge.
To keep discussing these and other matters on Europe’s Green Deal, for example, what it means for European forest policy and what happens after 2020, EFI will organize the next ThinkForest seminar on March 18th, 2020 in Brussels. Save the date, registration will open in early February.