European Union forest action plan
The action plan provides a coherent framework for forest-related initiatives at European Union level. It also serves as an instrument for coordinating European initiatives with the Member States' forest policies. The plan proposes 18 key actions which will be implemented over five years (2007-2011).
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 15 June 2006 on an EU Forest Action Plan [COM(2006) 302 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Forests are an important sphere for the European Union (EU): they cover 37.8 % of European territory and provide a living for 3.4 million people (forestry and forest-based industries). Moreover, the EU is the second-largest producer of industrial round timber after the United States and produces approximately 80 % of the world's cork. In the context of climate change, forests also play an important role - not only as regards trapping carbon, but also through the production of biomass *, and their potential in terms of renewable forms of energy. Lastly, forests are socially and culturally important: attractive to city dwellers, they provide opportunities for recreational and healthy activities and represent a not inconsiderable cultural heritage.
The European Commission has therefore set four main objectives to be implemented in order to optimise the sustainable management and multifunctional role of the EU's forests:
- improving long-term competitiveness;
- improving and protecting the environment;
- contributing to a better quality of life;
- fostering communication and coordination in order to increase consistency and cooperation at various levels.
These objectives translate into a series of 18 key actions, which the European Commission and the Member States will implement jointly. The action plan also provides for additional measures, which the Member States can implement depending on their specific characteristics and their priorities, in some cases with the aid of existing Community instruments.
Improving long-term competitiveness
The competitiveness of forestry is essential. The sector has great potential to develop new products and services of high quality in response to growing demand as a source of renewable raw material. The Commission proposes five key actions for this objective:
- Key action 1: The Commission will carry out a study on the effects of globalisation on the competitiveness of EU forestry in order to identify the main factors influencing developments in the EU forest sector and to underpin discussions on further action to be taken to enhance the competitiveness and economic viability of the sector;
- Key action 2: Encourage research and technological development to enhance the competitiveness of the forest sector (including through the 7th Research Framework Programme);
- Key action 3: Exchange and assess experiences on the valuation and marketing of non-wood forest goods and services: the aim is to quantify the total value of forests and their functions, in order to introduce instruments to compensate for non-marketed goods and services;
- Key action 4: Promote the use of forest biomass for energy generation;
- Key action 5: Foster cooperation between forest owners and enhance education and training in forestry.
Improving and protecting the environment
The overall objective is to maintain and appropriately enhance biodiversity, carbon sequestration, integrity, health and resilience of forest ecosystems at various geographical scales. In this regard, the Commission proposes the following key actions:
- Key action 6: Facilitate EU Member States' compliance with the obligations on climate change mitigation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol and encourage adaptation to the effects of climate change;
- Key action 7: Contribute towards achieving the revised Community biodiversity objectives for 2010 and beyond;
- Key action 8: Work towards a European Forest Monitoring System, following completion of the Forest Focus monitoring scheme;
- Key action 9: Enhance the protection of EU forests.
In addition, Member States may - with the support of the EAFRD and the instrument Life+ - promote measures in favour of forests (Natura 2000), agri-forestry systems, support restoration of forests damaged by natural disasters and fire, support studies on the causes of forest fires, awareness-raising campaigns.
Contributing to a better quality of life
The Commission considers it important to preserve and support the cultural and social dimension of forests. To do so, it has identified the following key actions:
- Key action 10: Encourage environmental education and information;
- Key action 11: Maintain and enhance the protective functions of forests;
- Key action 12: Explore the potential of urban and peri-urban forests.
In addition, Member States may - with support from the ERDF - enhance investment and sustainable management of forests for better prevention of natural disasters.
Fostering coordination and communication
While forest policy is a matter for the Member States, many initiatives with an impact on forest management are carried out at European level. This therefore requires improved coherence and cross-sectoral cooperation in order to balance economic, environmental and socio-cultural objectives at different organisational and institutional levels.
- Key action 13: Strengthen the role of the Standing Forestry Committee *;
- Key action 14: Strengthen coordination between policy areas in forest-related matters;
- Key action 15: Apply the open method of coordination to national forest programmes;
- Key action 16: Strengthen the EU profile in international forest-related processes;
- Key action 17: Encourage the use of wood and other forest products from sustainably managed forests;
- Key action 18: Improve information exchange and communication. Inter alia, the European Commission will develop a website devoted to forest management at the Europa Internet site.
In addition, the Member States are encouraged to organise visibility events, such as a "Forest Week" or "Forest Day", to raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable forest management.
The Commission will carry out a mid-term evaluation of the action plan in 2009 and an overall evaluation in 2012.
In December 1998 the Council adopted a resolution on a forestry strategy for the European Union. The Commission then submitted a report on the implementation of this strategy over five years and proposed inter alia launching an EU action plan on sustainable forest management. In May 2005 the Council meeting on agriculture and fisheries asked the Commission to draw up that action plan.