ThinkForest webinar on European forest policy post-2020
On 22 September 2020, European Forest Institute (EFI) organised a ThinkForest webinar which gathered participants from science, policy and forest sector to discuss the future European forest policy. The event was forward-looking with a strong message calling for a strategic and holistic approach to European forest policy and addressed the importance of involving the people who take care of our forests.

Contributing via a pre-recorded video, two former Prime Ministers, Göran Persson and Felipe González shared their reflections on how to make transformational policies to decarbonize economy, especially in the view of the COVID-19 crisis. Mr González, former Spanish Prime Minister pointed out that today many of us “see nature and the countryside from a very urban perspective”. Moving to a different economic model and a different relationship with nature would require effort, commitment and cost, he stated. Mr Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden, regretted that “The EU Green deal is not taking into account the huge assets of our forests to use them to combat climate change. Today forestry activities are regarded as a part of the problem, that’s wrong, they are definitely a part of the solution.” He also stressed the important involvement of forest owners: “You have to involve the ones who are able to carry out the most important parts of the Green Deal, namely those who are working in our forests.”

Eva Müller, Director General for Forest, Sustainability and Renewable Resources of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, highlighted three key objectives the EU Forest Strategy post-2020 should focus on: strengthening resilience and the adaptive capacity of forests, maintaining and enhancing forest biodiversity, and promoting and further developing the contribution of forest-based sector to the circular bioeconomy. Regarding to the competence on forestry she emphasized that the main responsibility is and should be of the Members States.

EFI study on European forest governance post-2020 was introduced by Bernhard Wolfslehner from the EFI Forest Policy Research Network. He presented what we have learned from other sectors, for example agriculture, water and energy policies. “Sustained political commitments and leadership are needed to advance policy integration or the adoption of new instruments”, he said. Defining joint topics on forests might be key to fostering forest policy integration – and here the Green Deal might be a strong trigger, although it’s still unclear whether it will be more inclusive in forest policy.

Eeva Primmer from the Finnish Environment Institute emphasised the multifunctionality of forests and reminded that the timescale and evolution of forests should be taken into account in decision-making. “I would urge us to take leadership in sustainable forest management, take functioning ecosystems to the centre stage, highlight the long-term orientation of forests and engage society”, she said.

Janez Potočnik, ThinkForest President, summarised the discussion and stated “We need a more strategic approach to European forests, forestry and forest-based solutions. We need this, still missing, part of the implementation of EU Green Deal, and we need it quite urgently."