EUSTAFOR contributes to the 8th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference

Over the last two days, the (virtual) 8th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference addressed issues of the highest political relevance regarding the current challenges faced by European forests and the forest sector, including their role in climate change adaptation. This intergovernmental summit was organized under the title “The Future We Want: The Forests We Need” and aimed to gather political commitments by countries in Europe and the European Union concerning a strategic framework and actions towards sustainable forest management in Europe over the coming decade.

The FOREST EUROPE report “State of Europe’s Forests 2020” was presented in video. During the conference, the views of EUSTAFOR were presented through both an individual statement made by Reinhardt Neft, President of EUSTAFOR, as well as a joint statement with CEPF and Copa-Cogeca.

During the Ministerial Roundtable 1, “Adapting forests to changing climate”, Martin Höbarth from Waldverband Österreich presented a Joint Statement from CEPF, Copa-Cogeca and EUSTAFOR.

Mr. Höbarth mentioned that even if several international commitments and initiatives recognize the crucial role of forests and the forest-based sector in reaching their objectives, promoting the use of forests exclusively as carbon sinks to combat climate change is a high-risk strategy. Instead, the entire forest cycle and the numerous ecological and socio-economic services that forests provide must be taken into consideration. Moreover, all pan-European, EU and national forest-related policies, including the new EU Forest Strategy, must promote effective technical, scientific and policy cooperation, as well as coherent policy tools and adequate funding for adaptation, to ensure healthy and resilient European forests. Research and innovation was also mentioned as a way to strengthen the exchange of best practices among regions and countries and to disseminate knowledge to practitioners.

The President of EUSTAFOR, Reinhardt Neft, participated in the Ministerial Roundtable 2, “Sustainable Forest Management – our joint answer to the vision of sustainable development,” where he promoted the messages from EUSTAFOR and European State Forest Management Organizations.

Mr. Neft first stated that sustainable and multi-purpose forestry needs a solid economic basis. He emphasized that a viable forest economy is a precondition for the delivery of all other functions and that financing will be needed to cope with the impacts of climate change. Secondly, forests are not only carbon sinks but also play a role in carbon storage and as substitute for fossil-based materials and energy. Finally, Mr. Neft underlined that sustainable forest management allows to conserve biodiversity while also contributing to its enhancement.

To conclude, Mr. Neft stated that “the future of European forests – with their long life cycle – depends on the political and managerial decisions that are made today. With our knowledge and expertise, we will actively contribute to a comprehensive understanding of how Europe’s forests can help to accomplish the multiple ambitions of sustainable development and a future-fit Europe.”

The ministers signed the Bratislava Ministerial Declaration and the Bratislava Ministerial Resolution, adopted by Expert Level Meeting (ELM) at the end of 2020.

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