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European forest sector calls for genuine common policy

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
Friday 09 September 2011
Publisher Name: 
Anne Eckstein
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It is urgent to act internationally to protect forests, which are guardians of the climate, protect soils and biodiversity, and play a crucial role in the water cycle, according to participants in a conference on ‘European and global forests: Which way for the future?’. The event, held on 6-7 September in Brussels in the framework of the International Year of Forests, was organised on the initiative of Gaston Franco (EPP, France), chair of the Forest Group of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development. The conference gave stakeholders the opportunity to review the state of forests in Europe and elsewhere and to debate the challenges related to the international climate negotiations (REDD+). It is not enough to act internationally, however. European foresters pressed for a genuine European common forestry policy.

The conference focused on the challenges of management, conservation and sustainable development of forests in Europe and globally and on the exchange of best practice and solutions for forest conservation and sustainable management. Its objective was also to sound the alert regarding the scourge of deforestation and to reiterate the close link between deforestation and the fight against poverty. Speakers agreed on the urgency of large-scale action in the international arena and the need for better knowledge of forest needs, the services forests can provide and the solutions they can offer for attenuating the impacts of climate change.


The inclusion of forests in measures to combat climate change – REDD+ programme – was the subject of a debate. Saskia Ozinga, coordinator of the NGO FERN, argued that the allocation of carbon allowances under the programme could undermine the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol. Responding to her arguments was Paul Clements-Hunt, head of the United Nations Environment Programme/Finance Initiative (UNEP/FI), a global partnership between the UNEP and the financial sector that brings together more than 180 institutions, including banks, insurers, fund managers and investors. He stressed the need to recognise the economic value of forests and ecosystem services. Addressing the question of how to finance forest actions, he announced the publication, on 13 September, of an important report entitled ‘Ready, set, grow’ that will outline five scenarios for raising funds in support of forests, involving the public and private sectors and the financial sector.

REDD+ aims to combat deforestation, so the discussion turned naturally to the drive to combat illegal logging and trade in timber and, within this context, the implementation and impact of the voluntary partnership agreements signed by the EU and certain producer countries as part of the FLEGT European programme. Do different eligibility conditions and objectives make these two programmes incompatible or can they be complementary in countries in difficulty like Madagascar? The question was raised but there is no clear answer at this stage.


Although the debate had a strong international orientation, the European forest industry nevertheless made a point of making its concerns heard. The fragmented structure of European forests, production costs and competition from imported timber weaken the sector. Inazio Martinez de Arano, executive director of USSE (association of Southern European forestry producers), highlighted low funding and the limited importance the EU attaches to forests, whose management is left to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), while forest protection comes under Natura 2000. It is crucial, he said on behalf of the sector, to have a common forestry policy along the same lines as the CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut