The European Union accounts for 179 million hectares of forests which make up 44.6% of its land and approximately 5% of the world’s forests. Contrary to what is happening in many other places around the world, the EU has set a strategy for protecting and restoring the loss of forests, leading to a slow increase in forest area. The percentage of land covered by forests in the EU varies dramatically from one country to another. Finland, Sweden, and Slovenia are at the top with 73%, 69%, and 62% of land covered by forests respectively. On the contrary, only 11% of the land in both the Netherlands and Ireland is covered by forests, while Malta crowns the bottom of the list with 1% of its land covered by forests. This is likely due to the high population density in Malta which is ranked 5th worldwide.
The EU considers forests an important factor in mitigating climate change. Forests are exceptionally diverse and are one of Europe’s most important renewable resources. They provide multiple benefits for society and the economy. Socio-economically, forests vary from small family holdings to state forests or large estates owned by companies. Timber and wood products are the main resources extracted from forests. The dynamic between forests and climate change put a great emphasis on the role of forest management and ecosystem services in protecting EU forests. This is why the EU has given special attention to the management and protection of its forests through the EU forest strategy, part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The EU forest strategy targets eight main priority areas which (i) support rural and urban communities; (ii) foster the competitiveness and sustainability of the EU’s forest-based industries, bio-energy, and the wider green economy; (iii) protect forests while promoting sustainable forestry management to mitigate against climate change; (iv) protect forests and enhances ecosystem services; (v) strengthen knowledge of the EU’s forests and how they are changing; (vi) develop new and innovative forestry and added-value products; (vii) work to coherently manage and better understand forests; and (viii) focus on forests from a global perspective, including the conservation of non-EU forests. Since 1990, the EU has played a major role in Forest Europe, which is the pan-European high-level intergovernmental dialogue on forests, bringing together 47 European nations.
In 2015, agricultural land was estimated to cover 42% of all EU land. According to Eurostat, the amount of land that is used for agricultural production has remained broadly unchanged between 2005 and 2016. The European Commission predicts that by 2030, EU agricultural land will shrink by 1.1%. According to 2015 statistics, the agricultural sector produced 426 473 kilotons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, representing 10% of the EU’s total GHG emissions. This represents a major decline of 20% compared to the level of emissions by the agricultural sector in 1990.
Activity Rating: **** Good Move
For more than 70 years, the EU has been engaged in protecting its forests and biodiversity. The fact that the EU’s forest protection strategy falls under CAP shows that the EU understands that the sectors should be interlinked. Therefore, establishing a common policy which aims to look after and protect the interests of both sectors is crucial. EU strategies have helped increase the amount of land dedicated to forests and restore degraded forests. Forests are key reservoirs for biodiversity and are a key tool to combat climate change.
Send a message:
Dear Mr. Wolfgang Burtscher,
Climate Scorecard would like to congratulate the EU for its effort and the key role it plays in coordinating between Member States to ensure that the protection of EU forests and biodiversity is maintained. We are looking forward to your assurance that the balance in land use between urban, agricultural, and forestry will be maintained despite the rising demand of urbanization. We would like to encourage the EU to share its knowledge, experience, and available technology and resources in supporting other countries and regions of the world to protect their forests and biodiversity.
With our respectful and best regards,
Mr. Wolfgang Burtscher
European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard EU Manager Ibrahim Abdel-Ati