The Paris climate change conference, which opens in 10 days will be a huge global opportunity to highlight the importance of forests, according to European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.
He was speaking at a breakfast meeting on ‘Europe’s Forests in the Sustainability Spotlight’ at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
He said it is becoming increasingly clear to a growing number of EU policymakers that forests and the forestry sector hold many of the answers to shared societal and environmental challenges.
Mr Hogan said wooded areas cover about 40% of the EU total area and have been expanding steadily.
The new EU Forest Strategy is providing guidance, direction and a blueprint for ideas.
“There is a pressing need to ensure the long-term sustainable management and development of forests, balancing the economic, social, and environmental benefits they deliver,” he said.
Mr Hogan said the Forest Strategy aims to establish the right framework to achieve this aim. It seeks to promote the sector’s ability to create innovation, growth and jobs.
“Forestry is one of the main sectors that keep our rural areas vibrant and sustainable. Forest-based industries provide nearly three and a half million jobs in the EU and produce a total added value of €135bn a year,” he said.
“The new EU Forest Strategy underlines that a sustainable, trained and safe workforce is one of the pillars of a more competitive forest sector.
"Well-managed forests with qualified forest managers, workers and entrepreneurs will be vital for a sustainable and competitive forest sector.”
Mr Hogan said the CAP rural development policy offers significant opportunities for supporting the sustainable and active use of forests.
Member states have the option to include measures on afforestation, the establishment of agroforestry systems, as well as investments in forestry technologies.
They have the possibility to invest in processing and marketing, organisational support for producer groups, and co-operation in innovation and knowledge transfer.
In the 118 Rural Development Programmes for 2014-2020, about €7.2bn of public expenditure is programmed for forestry including measures for enhancing the environmental benefits of forests, such as biodiversity, soil protection, or measures to prevent flooding and erosion.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved