More forests and better managed: FOREST EUROPE report reveals significant progress on sustainable forest management in Europe
• Europe’s forest area has expanded to 215 million hectares, or 33 percent of the region’s total land area, over the last 25 years and continues to expand.
• Progress has also been made in the last two-and-a-half decades on the implementation of sustainable forest management in the European region, with an increasing number of countries with improved national forest policy instruments.
These are two of the key findings revealed in the report State of Europe’s Forests 2015 report, the 4th edition of a document that offers a comprehensive overview of European forests, their current status, trends and the policy responses related to them. It also gives an instructive insight into sustainable forest management in the region during the period 1990-2015.
Report launched today
The new report was launched today in Madrid, Spain, at the 7th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference (20-21 October 2015). Ministers responsible for forests and high-level representatives of 38 European countries and the European Union gathered in the Spanish capital city aiming to strengthen international cooperation and agree on further steps to protect and promote the sustainable use of the continent’s forests, and so preserve and enhance their environmental, social and economic values.
Since 1990, the Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe, known as FOREST EUROPE, has facilitated an open and inclusive policy dialogue between governments, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector, which addresses common challenges and opportunities relating to forests in Europe.
By providing detailed information about the current status of European forests and the associated trends over the last two-and-a-half decades, the State of Europe’s Forests report aims to stimulate debate on the role of forests in society and the implementation of sustainable forest management in the region. It also seeks to provide policy-makers with evidence-based information that can be used as a solid basis for future political commitments on forests and other forest-related issues in Europe.
European forests: fighting climate change
European forests play a vital role in tackling current challenges like climate change. The expanding forest area and sustainably managed forests in Europe provide increased carbon sequestration and storage in the forest biomass and soils, as well as in forest products.
Forests remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. As reported by the State of Europe’s Forests 2015, between 2005 and 2015 the average annual sequestration of carbon in forest biomass, soil and forest products reached 719 million tonnes in the European region. This corresponds to about 9% of the net greenhouse gas emissions for the European region.
The increasing awareness of the importance of forests to mitigate and adapt to climate change is highly reflected in forest policies at the national level. During recent years many European countries have revised their policy objectives by putting stronger emphasis on climate change and most countries in Europe have established specialised entities responsible for implementing regulations, projects and programmes on climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Progress on sustainable forest management = progress on protection of forests
Progress made on sustainable forest management in Europe in the last 25 years comprises improvements in forest policies, legislation, monitoring and assessment, among others.
The number of countries in Europe with a formal National Forest Programme (NFP) process has almost tripled since 2007. NFPs have encouraged broad participation, facilitating adoption and implementation of forest policies and strategies. In this sense, it must be noted that a forest policy document such as a “forest strategy”, “forest policy” or the like exists in practically all FOREST EUROPE countries.
70 percent of all forests in Europe have a management plan
Likewise, over 70 percent of forests in Europe have a management plan, which means that an area of over 155 million hectares in the European region is covered by forests under management plans or their equivalents.
And the expansion of better managed forests encompasses the progress on the protection of forests: Sustainably managed forests recover more easily from damage and diseases, and adapt better to changing conditions.
In addition, it should be highlighted that, according to the results presented in the State of Europe’s Forests 2015 report, more than 30 million ha of European forests are protected with the main objective of conserving biodiversity or landscape. Over the last 15 years, the area of protected forests in Europe has increased by half a million hectares annually.
Great economic potential of forests yet to be fully developed
Despite the fact that the European forest sector was affected by the recent global economic recession, it is now on a steady path of recovery. The productive role of our forests is worth emphasising. Europe still remains one of the world’s biggest producers of equivalent roundwood. The value of marketed non-wood goods, which sometimes provide an important source of income at local level, is also significant.
As highlighted by their contribution to Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP), which amounts to EUR 103 million annually, the socio-economic functions of forests play an important role in the region’s economy. It is also interesting to note that, according to the information provided by the State of Europe’s Forests 2015 report, Europe has moved from being a net importer of primary wood and paper products to a net exporter.
The forest sector in Europe provides jobs and income for at least 3 million people, plus an untold number of people in informal employment, such as much of the work carried out by private owners and members of local communities, which is not reflected in official employment statistics nor in the reported data.
In this context, and as has been often repeated by many delegations during the 7th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference, the transition to a green economy offers great opportunities to develop the forest sector even further, as well as to foster the creation of new decent green jobs.
Over 300 national correspondents and national and international experts provided the information required for the State of Europe’s Forests 2015 report, and 60-plus authors and reviewers worked together to produce it.
The 4th edition of the State of Europe’s Forests report has been coordinated and compiled by FOREST EUROPE’s Liaison Unit Madrid in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Forest Institute (EFI), the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the University of Hamburg (UHH). The UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section played a valuable role in the collection, processing and reviewing of part of the information included in the report.
About FOREST EUROPE – The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe
FOREST EUROPE (brand name of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe) is the voluntary high-level political process for dialogue and cooperation on forest policies in Europe.
Founded in 1990, FOREST EUROPE develops common strategies for its 46 member countries and the European Union on how to protect forests and manage them sustainably. 14 non-European countries and 45 international organizations related to forests also contribute to the work of FOREST EUROPE as observers.
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