The publication of the new European Union Forest Strategy (EUFS) remains the most decisive development to affect the forest sector this year. While the responsibility remains in the Member States, the EUFS will provide synergies and coherence with the different policy areas that affect forests. In order to manage forests through a holistic approach, the EUFS seeks to incorporate all aspects of the forest value chain by not limiting itself purely to forests. Therefore, it not only addresses key issues like rural development and biodiversity, but stresses the importance of forests in terms of the forest based industries, bio-energy and climate change mitigation.
This year the Commission outlined Multi Annual implementation Plan (MAP) of the EU Forest Strategy aimed at ensuring the continuing development of sustainable management of forests (SFM) in the EU.
To draw up the criteria for SFM, the Commission has instituted a Working Group to set relevant, clear, and measurable indicators to achieve the 2020 goals set out in the EUFS. The final report from the working group on SFM criteria and indicators was adopted by the Commission in July and endorsed by the Standing Forestry Committee at its last meeting on 18 September.
The publication of the European Climate and Energy Framework for 2030 was another important topic for forestry. In 2016 the EU executive will decide how to integrate the ‘land use, land-use change and forestry’ (LULUCF) sector into EU 2030 climate/ energy targets. This initiative is a first step towards incorporating agriculture and forestry - the last major sectors without common EU-wide rules on GHG - into the EU’s emission-reduction efforts. The Commission will consider whether to propose GHG targets for agriculture and forestry sectors once the accounting systems have proven that they are robust and effective.
Recent initiatives like the circular economy package (published on the 2nd December) will also be influential for a more resource efficient society, and include several initiatives that can have an important effect in the sector, such as the sustainable criteria for biomass and the cascade principle. This principle would prioritize a cascading set of uses for wood materials interfering with free market principles, thus minimizing the bargaining position of foresters across the EU. Making this principle legally binding would also drastically increase the bureaucratic and administrative burdens already faced by foresters. The ELO continues to argue against the adoption of this principle in the appropriate forums
The ELO has also been following closely the Commission’s Fitness Check exercise over the Birds and Habitats Directives which may have a great impact on European forestry. As more than half of all Natura 2000 sites are located in forests, this is another important process that is very much under the ELO’s purview which we will monitor and contribute to substantially in the coming year.
In order to deal with all these issues, the ELO is an active member of the Commission’s Advisory Group on Forest and Cork and works closely together with the main forestry producer’s organisations in Brussels. ELO member Bernhard BUDIL is now chairing this Civil Dialogue Group. The ELO also keeps close contact with other stakeholders involved in the sector namely industry representatives and NGOs, or through initiatives such as the ThinkForest platform.
ELO member, Algis GAIZUTIS, represented ELO at the Informal meeting of EU forest Directors meeting on the 18-19 June in Riga, organised by the Latvian presidency, together with the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture.