Brussels, 27 February 2008
The European Commission has today adopted a 19-point plan to address the challenges facing forest-based industries, which are adapting to deal with increased global competition, climate change and energy and wood supply availability. Important competitiveness challenges cover innovation, access to non-EU markets and high energy and transport costs. Moreover, the access to and availability of new and recovered raw material at competitive prices and the strategic role of this sector in limiting climate change are issues which need to be addressed specifically in order to provide the right framework conditions within which this industrial chain can prosper and grow. Furthermore, and in particular in the woodworking and printing sectors, the dimension of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) is especially relevant. The communication is part of the Commission's integrated industrial policy consisting of horizontal and sectoral measures.
Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “The forest-based industries are in the process of adapting towards a low-carbon economy. We should support them in this effort through a policy framework which allows this important sector to remain competitive, while contributing to our ambitious climate change and energy policies.''
The Commission is proposing 19 actions in five different areas within a coherent approach towards strengthening the competitive position of the forest-based industries in Europe, while integrating the climate change objectives into the industrial strategy.
1. Access to raw materials
Member States, industry and forest owners are encouraged to promote afforestation and reforestation and to pay attention to the different uses of biomass when developing the national action plans. Sustainable forest management should be further encouraged.
of recovered raw material: The development of markets and collection systems for recovered paper will be followed to further promote cost-efficient and good quality collection systems. To increase the recovery level for wood products, the Commission will launch a study identifying solutions.
2. Climate change policy and environmental legislation
The Commission will explore advantages and challenges of proposing to include carbon storage in harvested wood products. Competitiveness concerns in the context of further global and EU action on climate change will be addressed. For example, relevant sectors will be considered in the Commission assessment of the risk of carbon leakage of Energy Intensive Industries.
3. Innovation, research and technological development
Member States and industry should consider the Strategic Research Agenda in their research (RTD) programmes and make adequate provision for education and training. Within the EU 7th Framework Programme, methods for production of bio-fuels and bio-based chemicals from wood should be explored (as well as increased efficiency using new and recovered fibre and solid wood will be encouraged).
Furthermore the “cluster” concept linking innovation related activities will be used to improve competitive synergies in the forest value chain, especially for SMEs.
4. Trade and cooperation with third countries
The Commission will continue its efforts to establish and implement a market access strategy, ensuring access to raw materials internationally and supporting the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. To this end a dialogue with interested third countries will be launched.
5. Communication and Information
Member States, regional authorities, academic and educational institutions will be invited to cooperate within multinational networks in order to examine and ensure the follow-up of long-term changes in the forest-based industries.
The proposals have been subject to a public consultation and have been
reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Community Policy regarding Forestry and