Forest Strategy: an unacceptable attempt to regulate forestry

Photo: Björn Leijon

The draft of a revised EU Forest Strategy is an unacceptable and far-reaching proposal to regulate forest planning, monitoring, management, and industry production. It expresses a clear lack of understanding of how forest management and the forest-based industries work and their full contributions to a climate neutral society.

In a recently leaked draft of a revised EU Forest Strategy, the Swedish Forest Industries find that the European Commission proposes not only a strategy, but in fact a common EU forest policy.

“The draft proposal clearly oversteps the Member States competence on forest policy. Even if the Commission has shared competences on environmental policy, the draft proposals cannot be justified solely by this. To us, it seems as if the Commission is prepared to do whatever they can to enlarge their area of decision making. This is unacceptable”, says Emma Berglund, Forest Director, International and EU affairs, at the Swedish Forest Industries.

The Commission proposes future EU legislation on forest monitoring and joint EU forest management planning, including Strategic Plans for Forests for 10, 30 and 50 years. The proposal wants to regulate in detail how forests can be used and managed and what the forest industries should produce.

“Forest management and planning should not be defined at the EU level, neither should the extent of the forest industries production. The proposal is in stark contrast with the foundation of sustainable forest management. We oppose all attempts for such a Brussels centralized, planned economy. Instead decisions on forests and forest-based industries must be made by Member States, forest owners and industry stakeholders, adapted to the national, regional, and local needs”, continues Emma Berglund.

A severe tone of deafness

In the fall of 2020, the Council and the European Parliament defined its positions concerning the revision of the EU Forest Strategy.

“We cannot see that the Council and Parliament reports are well reflected in the draft Strategy. It is remarkable that the Commission so obviously disregards the strong and clearly expressed views of the other two institutions. This indicates a severe tone of deafness in the Commission, which will alienate many important stakeholders, such as Member States, forest owners, investors, and forest industry workers. In the worst case, this Strategy will fuel voices of protectionism, anti-EU cooperation and nationalism. In other words, the Commission is playing a political game with extremely high stakes”, says Anna Holmberg, Director and Head of the Brussels office for the Swedish Forest Industries.

The draft Strategy is specific on what types of wood-based products that the Commission wants to see, and the focus is clearly on long lived products at the expense of short lived ones.

“An overall understanding is clearly missing of how forestry and wood-based value chains work and contribute to mitigating climate change. So called long- and short-lived products cannot be put against each other. In the forest-based industries all parts of the tree are used in a resource efficient way resulting in both long- and short-lived products being produced simultaneously. To produce high-quality wood suitable for construction, the forest must be thinned. The small-diameter wood from these thinnings, as well as the side streams from producing the long-lived products, are used to produce pulp, paper and board. It must be recognized that all different wood-based products and bioenergy are essential for a successful transition to a fossil free and circular bioeconomy”, says Emma Berglund.

The draft stresses the importance of creating engagement with stakeholders during implementation. 

“This draft is doing anything but that for our members. There is, however, still time for the Commission to redo and rethink before final publication on 20 July. Forests and wood-based products will be important contributors in Europe becoming the first climate-neutral continent, but then we need well-designed policy, which respects the Treaty and its division of competences, which truly creates engagement from stakeholders and which is implementable”, concludes Anna Holmberg.