EU forest strategy : An Inside look
EDP Executive Vice-President and MEP Ulrike Müller’s glowed this week when the European Parliament plenary session voted in favour of the new EU forest strategy for 2030. Adopted 13 September, it was a big win for her as the parliament’s rapporteur for the strategy. Passed by a vote of 417 in favour, 144 against with 67 abstentions, the resolution to adopt the text means Europe with take a much-needed step to meet Green Deal aims for the climate. It does this by reconciling the economic potential of forestry with biodiversity and climate goals to sustainably manage EU forests while taking into account local conditions and concerns and ideas from forest owners.
Ms. Müller, the chief negotiator on the strategy in the democratically elected assembly, noted: “This is a success across the board. With four main criteria fulfilled, we have achieved good things for the foresters and forest owners.”
Successful negotiation of four central ideas
Seeds of success started at the beginning of the negotiations, when Müller introduced four guiding principles clearly reflected in the formulated strategy, namely multifunctionality of the forests, sustainability of management, empowerment of the owners and the consideration of local framework conditions through a bottom-up approach.
Müller sees the cooperation by people involved in this report as extremely constructive: “Parliament did a good job. The commission and the member states are now responsible for shaping forest policy practice. They must enable foresters and forest owners to implement these four points in their economic and ecological work."
Regionality and empowerment
Müller is particularly satisfied that the strategy takes into account the regional nature of European forests. The central task of the forest strategy is to enable forest owners to meet the diverse requirements placed on them:
“Policies and instruments must work locally and we know that Europe is highly diverse and regionally different. On-site expert knowledge and historical experience foresters hold must be taken into account in forest management. They present our most important allies when it comes to sustainability and climate change, and they should boost the strategy.”
The vote marks the conclusion of the negotiations within Parliament, which Ulrike Müller led as rapporteur for nearly six months. Müller for more than a year meticulously prepared the initiative report. The guiding ideas she introduced formed the basis of the draft report and served as guidelines for the compromise negotiations. In addition, Müller has contributed extensive expert knowledge from meetings with international stakeholders and professional associations.
At the beginning of September, Müller and some colleagues organized a seminar on regional approaches to forest management and ways of remunerating ecosystem services under the umbrella of the Renew Europe Group, of which EDP European parliamentarians are members. Experts from the Mediterranean, Nordic countries, the United States and Germany discussed best practices, such as for assessing and operationalizing the carbon sequestration function of European forestry. The “WoodApp” presented for small forest owners is a fine practical example of high-tech solutions already being implemented locally in certain regions. Held at the European Parliament, participants listened to experts on how carbon sequestration in European forestry works through the approaches implemented, notably in by Mediterranean and Nordic countries. The Catalan government also shared their views, in which Müller emphasised: “We can learn a lot from all regions” and that “it is important for Renew (Europe) to be in exchange with all of you”. As this topic grows on the platform of policymakers, Müller pressed the need for the European Commission to take a holistic approach, incorporating environmental, social, and even legal angles.
Central role of forests for climate-neutral management
By 2050, the EU wants to develop a climate-neutral circular economy and bioeconomy. The European Green Deal also formulates goals for green growth and green jobs. Forests, forestry and the downstream industries play a central role here, because these goals can only be achieved with innovative bio-based products. Around 60 percent of the forests are owned by around 16 million private owners. In Europe, the majority of owners own less than 10 hectares.