Today, the European Commission has launched an online public consultation on the upcoming legislative proposal for a new EU framework for forest monitoring and strategic plans. The aim is to develop an EU-wide forest observation framework to provide open access to detailed, accurate, regular and timely information on the condition and management of EU forests. All stakeholders are invited to share their views on this initiative via an online consultation that runs until 17 November 2022.
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:
Our forests are under huge pressure. We have all witnessed the wildfires this summer, and in addition to climate change, forests suffer from biodiversity loss, increased land use, pests and the intensification of forest harvesting. Yet, they also play a key role in responding to those challenges. This new initiative on forest monitoring and strategic plans will ensure that timely and accurate information on EU forests is available, so that policymakers, foresters and land managers are able to take swift and decisive action in response to the new pressures on forests.
The European Green Deal calls for action to improve the quantity and quality of forests in the European Union, so the EU can reach its goal of climate neutrality and creating a healthy environment. The new EU Forest Strategy for 2030 sets the vision for effective afforestation, forest preservation and restoration in Europe. The Strategy also announces a legislative proposal for a forest observation, reporting and data collection framework and to require Member States to prepare strategic plans for forests.
In addition to improving forest monitoring, this information will lead to more data-driven decision-making on forests. It is expected to increase public trust in forest management, reduce illegal logging, incentivise and reward more sustainable forest management, and support the adaptation of forests to climate change. This initiative will also help deliver a Europe fit for the digital age as it will empower people, businesses and administrations by providing access to harmonised forest-related data and making better use of digital technologies.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 echoes the ambition of the European Green Deal and sets out a comprehensive, ambitious long-term plan for protecting nature and restoring its essential functions, thereby reversing the degradation of ecosystems, including forests. Despite the key role forests play in responding to climate change, preserving and restoring biodiversity and developing the bio-economy, information is patchy about the status of forests in the EU, their social, ecological and economic value, and the pressures they face and ecosystem services they provide. Since 2007, when the Forest Focus Regulation expired, there are no harmonised EU forest reporting requirements. There is consequently no comparable and consistent information on the status of forests in the EU. The lack of harmonised data in certain areas does not only constitute a major risk for EU forests, but also for EU policy monitoring and the achievement of climate, biodiversity, rural development and sustainable bio-economy objectives.