Forests in the EU’s Long-term climate strategy
Thirty-eight per cent of the European Union (EU) is covered by forests. They contribute to life and well-being, give children a place to play and dream, and parents a place to walk and talk. They contribute to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and yield valuable timber for buildings, art, furniture and more. They are homes to bugs, birds and plants too numerous to count.
In the EU’s “long-term strategic vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy” – also called the long-term climate strategy (LTS) – forests’ primary role is considered to be as a feedstock for energy production – replacing coal and gas.
The strategy therefore focuses on intensifying the burning of wood for energy and planting fast growing monoculture tree plantations. Such a strategy shows a simplified understanding of forests and the forest economy, which would encourage the sort of forest management that badly impacts on the climate, people and wildlife. It ignores the role forests already play in removing carbon dioxide from the air, and ignores the industries working to replace energy-intensive products such as steel and concrete with high-quality wood.
But it is not just local communities, non-governmental organisations, environmentalists and businesses that rely on wood that are concerned. Hundreds of scientists have taken the unusual step of writing to the EU warning that bioenergy is worsening, rather than reversing, climate change. In 2015 alone, an area of forest three and a half times the size of Poland’s Białowieża National Park was burned for energy. The LTS as presently described could make matters worse.
This briefing reveals the likely impacts of the LTS between now and 2050, and provides recommendations for how it could meet climate goals and protect and restore forests for future generations.