We need strong EU forest strategy 

The EU’s forest strategy should cover the entire value chain of the forest sector. Sustainable forestry is a solution in terms of the economy, environment and climate.

The European Green Deal is the European Commission’s strategy for sustainable growth, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create a greener and healthier environment, and generate growth and work.

Excellent goals! What concerns me though is that the Green Deal makes nearly no mention at all of the bioeconomy. Its absence is conspicuous, as is the absence of sustainable forestry and the entire forest sector.

The European Union’s current forest strategy is valid until the end of 2020. Its general objective is the sustainable development and management of forests across Europe. Once the current strategy has expired, the European Commission is set to publish the EU’s new forest strategy in early 2021.
Th European Parliament formulated its own position on the forest strategy back in October. The chief negotiator of the report approved by the Parliament was the Finnish MEP Petri Sarvamaa. The Parliament’s position contained a strong message to the Commission: the forest bioeconomy and sustainable forestry must be seen as an integral part of the solution for achieving the EU’s climate and environmental goals.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council (member states) issued its own conclusions on the EU’s coming forest strategy in mid-November. The Council emphasises sustainable forest management, the forest sector’s significance in the EU’s circular bioeconomy, and the member states’ decision-making powers in forest policy. Its conclusions are in line with the position of the European Parliament and correspond well with the views of Finnish forest owners.

For Finland, the forest industry is a more important export industry than to many other EU countries, and this is why the content and impact of the coming forest strategy carry special meaning for us. In principle, forest policy and forestry fall under the scope of the national competence of each member state of the European Union.

The Parliament of Finland has stated this on several occasions, most recently while it was discussing the European Green Deal in the spring of 2020. What’s disconcerting is that voices in the current Commission have questioned national decision-making powers in forest policy and attempted to bring forest policy under environmental and climate policy.

It is true that the Union and member states share competence over energy, agricultural and environmental issues, all of which are linked to forests and national forest decisions. This is precisely why the Union needs a uniform, strong and functional forest strategy which creates a framework for competence relations.

From the perspective of Finnish forest owners and the Finnish forest industry, the forest strategy must pay special attention to economic potential based on forests, which the current Commission seems to have forgotten. Forests and the forest industry also play a significant role in the bioeconomy of Europe as a whole.

The European Forest Institute puts the value of forest bioeconomy products in Europe at more than EUR 200 billion a year. It has also been estimated that the global market for wood-based products will grow by EUR 200 billion by 2030. All this means that we really stand a chance on the markets.
Finland should systematically increase forest knowledge and promote sustainable forestry within the European Union. We simply cannot afford a situation where the bioeconomy and the role of forests within it are not understood. Nor can we afford our own decision-makers working against the interests of Finland and sustainable development. The coming strategy should cover the forest sector’s entire value chain.

Sustainable forestry is a solution in terms of the economy, environment and climate.

Juha Hakkarainen

Forest Director

The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK)

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