A Forest Academy for Europe

Forest ecosystems, industries, and communities are at the forefront of Europe's discussions on its future. The Forest Academy offers a chance to reflect, share and learn. (Picture: Philip Chambers)

In the European Union, Sweden and Finland have the largest areas of forests, at 28 million hectares and 22 million hectares respectfully. This represents a third of the total area of forests in the EU. Forests are therefore integral to each country’s societies and economies.

Sustainable forest management across Europe must be balanced and enduring. The many frameworks, policy mechanisms and financial instruments affecting forests and forestry at the EU level can be complex and overwhelming to comprehend. Therefore, the Forest Academy for Decision Makers at the EU will be instrumental in providing participants with the chance to reflect, while it will facilitate the sharing of lessons, perspectives and ideas from across the sector and beyond.

Forest Academy, established in Finland in 1996, is one of the most important places where discussions and contemplation about forests take place in society. Networks and trust are built, as those working in the forest sector have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with policymakers and influencers from outside the sector. The benefits of using this approach have been noted in the Nordics and is why Finland and Sweden jointly wish to promote this as a tool for decision makers involved in forestry at a European level.

With forests covering over 40 % of the total land area of Europe, the forest sector finds itself in a unique position as the discussions surrounding the future development of the continent and its transition to a greener, climate-neutral region builds.

The forest ecosystems, industries and communities that are supported by this valuable resource can be notably different in each member country of the EU, which is partly why forestry has largely remained a reserved competence within the EU. Still, the EU has for some time been bringing member states together to discuss forest policy through processes such as FOREST EUROPE – the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe – and the Council of the EU’s  Working Party on Forestry.

The following instruments, measures and policy areas, with their links, illustrate the multifaceted nature of forest policy and governance at the European Union

The European Green Deal is the EU’s roadmap to a greener, sustainable future. It contains a raft of policy measures and initiatives which present several challenges and opportunities for the forest sector. Read more about A European Green Deal here

Some of the measures within the European Green Deal that will affect the forest sector include:

  • The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 whose roadmap can be found here
  • The European climate law – achieving climate neutrality by 2050 roadmap can be found here
  • The Circular Economy Action Plan – more can be found on this here
  • The EU Forest Strategy – find about this and forestry at the EU more broadly here
  • The EU Industrial Strategy 2030 – find out more here
  • The European Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) – find out more here

Additionally, the EU has a commitment to ensuring the coordination of its members as they work to achieve the UN sustainable development goals set out in Agenda 2030. Read more about Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU also works to combat the illegal harvesting of forests and regulates the trade in timber through ensuring the compliance of member states with the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. This involves two key pieces of legislation; EU Timber Regulation and the FLEGT Regulation

With the great complexity and sheer scale of the task of coordinating and managing forest policy across the 27 member states, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the Forest Information System for Europe. It acts as an entry point for the dissemination of information on Europe’s forest environment, its state and development while also supplying links to other portals which provide further expertise.

 

Author

Björn Merkell & Philip Chambers

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