At its meeting on Friday 9 March, the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) approved the draft opinion on the mid-term review of the EU Forest Strategy, drawn up by member of Lapinlahti municipal council Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE). It sets the goal of a socially and environmentally sustainable forest policy which supports economic growth and employment and safeguards the diversity of forest ecosystems.
In the EU, responsibility for forest policy lies with the Member States, but decisions in areas such as the common agricultural policy, trade policy, energy policy and climate policy have an impact on forestry-related matters and it is therefore important to coordinate such policies at EU level. The current EU Forest Strategy was finalised in spring 2015 and the mid-term review of the strategy is due to be published by the European Commission in the autumn. The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is contributing to this process through the opinion being drawn up by Mr Martikainen.
The CoR draft opinion states that, from the point of view of local and the various regional authorities, forests are an important element of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development. Including the forest bioenergy sector, the forestry industry employs as many as four million people in the European Union and accounts for 7% of the EU’s economic growth. These jobs are crucial to rural and sparsely populated regions but also boost economic growth in towns and cities.
“Local and regional authorities can play a significant role in promoting businesses’ use of local timber resources and the transition to a bioeconomy. For example, the choice of construction materials, production of energy for the needs of communities and greater use of biofuels in public transport are useful tools which can contribute to a stronger economy and employment,” Martikainen noted.
In the view of the NAT commission, the review of the Forest Strategy should be aligned with the updating of the EU’s bioeconomy strategy. “In the common agricultural policy too, it is important to include tools that support the forest sector in rural areas, such as those for the prevention of deforestation, the renewal and management of forests, as well as the promotion of entrepreneurship and training in the sector,” Martikainen emphasised.
According to the opinion, the Commission’s mid-term review should focus in particular on the multi-dimensional importance of forests in climate policy, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement objectives and in efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The EU’s trade and development policies should also support the environmentally and socially sustainable use of forests in developing countries.
“By pursuing a successful, long-term approach, up to 90% of Europe’s forests could be natural or close to natural, hosting a wide range of species. Investing in a sustainable forest economy will continue to ensure more sustainable and healthier forests,” Martikainen explained.
Martikainen’s opinion is due to be adopted at the CoR plenary session on 16-17 May.