EU Forest representatives, including CEPF, Copa-Cogeca, ELO and EUSTAFOR, recently teamed up to organise an event aimed at addressing the "significant" contribution of multi-functional forests to the EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives.

Entitled ‘Seeing the forest for the trees – the multi-functional role of EU forests’, the event was hosted by MEP Petri Sarvamaa, rapporteur for the EP’s initiative report on the EU Forest Strategy.

The organisers said that while more than one third of Europe is covered by forests which provide European citizens with economic, environmental and social benefits, the multi-functional role of forests is all too often overlooked. This is mainly due to the spread of generalised messages, such as the degradation of EU forests, the purely commercial use of forests, etc.

Such messages underestimate the continuous efforts undertaken by forest owners and managers to ensure sustainable forest development and to maximise their potential to serve people, the climate and nature. In fact, EU forest owners and managers have a long tradition of and hands-on experience in sustainable management of multifunctional forests. This was showcased by three practical examples: the management of wetlands in Sweden, tools to enhance the multifunctionality of forests in Croatia and agroforestry in Portugal.

In addition, it was also highlighted that collaboration between policymakers and the forest sector is central to optimising the multiple benefits provided by forests. This is particularly relevant within the context of climate change and emerging societal expectations in Europe.

MEP Petri Sarvamaa underlined that, "A self-standing and robust EU Forest Strategy is the most appropriate tool to enable multifunctional EU forests to tackle the challenges of our time.”

Actors in the forestry sector believe that a balanced approach to all forest functions is key to ensuring consistency between forest-related policies.

The future EU Forest Strategy should establish a framework for all relevant initiatives within the European Green Deal. These include the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Climate Law – achieving climate neutrality by 2050, the EU bio-based circular economy, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other policies.