The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) calls on the Commission to examine whether the current management of forest issues and the approach to such issues, as well as resources in the EU, are adequate and up-to-date. In an opinion drawn up by member of Lapinlahti Municipal Council Ossi Martikainen (FI/ALDE), the Committee stresses that forests have a key role to play in the development of Europe's bioeconomy and biodiversity, as well as in the transition to a low-carbon, green economy.
In December, the European Commission published a report on the implementation of the EU Forestry Strategy. The CoR believes that the Commission should put forward a new, updated forestry strategy for the period after 2020, which should be prepared in consultation with Member States, regions and forestry experts and organisations. The Committee also points out that forestry needs adequate funding in the forthcoming 2021-2027 EU budgetary period.
As Martikainen underlines: “Now is a key moment for ensuring adequate financing of forestry measures as part of rural development funding in the common agricultural policy (CAP). In addition, funding options for the forest sector should be publicised at every level of government. The sector also offers considerable potential to make use of funds under the EU's research and innovation programmes."
The opinion adopted at the CoR plenary session on Thursday states that forest owners and those responsible for forest management and administration, including municipalities and regional governments, have a key part to play in strengthening the sustainable management of forests. Through regional sustainable development plans and bioeconomy strategies local and regional governments can contribute to, among other things, ecologically sustainable construction and carbon storing long-life wood products, renewable energy deployment, education and the promotion of SME entrepreneurship in the forest sector. They can also promote and reinforce active and sustainable forestry among private forest owners.
“A shift towards forest-based products, in construction and energy production for example, would generate employment and tax revenues for sparsely populated regions too," notes Martikainen, adding: “Forests are also an important asset for tourism, biodiversity, recreation and citizens' wellbeing."
The CoR stresses that forests have a key role to play in tackling climate change and mitigating its effects. The principles of sustainable forest management should therefore be assessed in a holistic way, and consideration should be given to the potential of forests to replace fossil fuels, how forest management affects carbon sequestration and what threats climate change poses to forests.
“It is also important", Martikainen points out, "for the EU to continue its work to ensure international cooperation and agreements on the forest sector and the trade in forest products, and to consolidate the principles of sustainable forestry in its neighbourhood, its economic external relations and its development policy."
Forests owned by local and regional authorities (LRAs) across the European Union represent an estimated 14% of the total EU forest area, equivalent to about 22 million of hectares. LRAs do not only own forests. They also manage forests, administer forest policy implementation, enforce forest laws, and provide support to private forest management. For local and the various regional authorities, forests are an important element of economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development, according to a recent CoR study.
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