EU forests in the European Green Deal
The European Commission recently released European Green Deal with a set of policy guidelines that will bring the EU closer towards its transition to a climate-neutral continent by 2050. This Communication encompasses several initiatives which are key for the EU forest sector. European Forest Owners are looking forward to actively contribute to the implementation of the Commission’s long-term vision.

Forests and forest-based sector are well positioned to play a strong role in reaching the objectives of the European Green Deal accompanied by a roadmap of key actions. To ensure that this role is successful in contributing to the Commission’s long-term vision, there is need to continue working towards strengthening resilience of Europe’s forests and to consider the expertise and motivation of nearly 16 million European forest owners who take care of approximately 60% of the European forest area.

Over the past few months, the forest-based sector has frequently raised awareness about the importance of and the need for a strong and updated EU Forest Strategy post-2020, to ensure a holistic approach to forests and synergies between all EU policies related to forests[1]. The inclusion of this Strategy in the European Green Deal is therefore an important step forward.

A new EU Forest Strategy is central to ensure that the EU and Member States will be able to build on a strong framework and further coordinate on forest-related policies. It is therefore important that any future initiative brings forward a holistic approach taking into consideration the multiple services that forests provide (such as climate, biodiversity, bio-based circular economy, social and cultural services) as well as the challenges they are facing in particular from climate change impacts on their health and resilience. With respect to the Commission proposal, CEPF notes that the new Strategy, expected in 2020, will have afforestation, preservation and restoration as main objectives while also covering the whole forest cycle seeking further knowledge on how the many forest services can be best integrated. Sustainable forest management (SFM) should be given a key role in this policy landscape. 

Further, as part of the European Green Deal, the Commission will put forward a new EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 by March 2020, listing global targets to protect biodiversity, as well as commitments to address the main causes of biodiversity loss in the EU by 2021. SFM principles and practices should be included in this work since they contain environmental preservation as part of the whole forest management cycle by including specific actions for maintaining and enhancing environmental benefits.

The announcement of a new EU Climate Adaptation Strategy in 2021 is also highly important in a context where changing climatic conditions will continue to have an impact on EU forest ecosystems and where forest owners need support on how to ensure and strengthen forest resilience through prevention and preparedness measures that will support forest areas and resources in the future.

Equally, European Forest Owners welcome the developments with relation to the new Circular Economy Action Plan and the possibilities it can bring for the forest and forest-based sector. We are pleased to see that the Commission will reflect on how to harness opportunities in the circular and bio-economy in rural areas through European funds, as rural development is crucial for the forest sector.

In line with these very important policy developments, moving rapidly forward, forest owners will engage in a dialogue with EU institutions and other stakeholders in order to contribute to the practical implementation of the European Green Deal.