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The New EU Forest Strategy for 2030: A New Understanding of Sustainable Forest Management?

Blog post
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23.2.2022
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Kari T Korhonen
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Markus Lier

Two decades after the pan-European set of indicators for sustainable forest management was adopted, the European Commission published the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030. A new study compares the documents to determine whether they share the same understanding of sustainable forest management. The study looks at whether, and to what extent, the existing indicator set is fit for purpose to monitor progress towards the Strategy’s objectives, and the delivery of policy commitments.

The concept of Sustainable Forest Management has changed over time

The underlying concept of sustainable forest management may have changed over time, notably by changing the scope to include major emerging issues, and giving lower priority to others. In the 1990s, the impact of air pollution on forests was of particular concern, but meanwhile, climate change and the loss of biodiversity have come to dominate discussions. The study shows that these developments are reflected in the concerns of the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030, which does not however propose a structured concept of sustainable forest management as a whole, nor does it address all aspects of sustainable

forest management. The Strategy is also strongly determined by developments and legally binding EU policy instruments for other sectors, notably biodiversity, climate change, renewable energy, bioeconomy, and rural development.

Is the existing pan-European indicator set fit for purpose to monitor progress towards the Strategy’s objectives?

The study shows that about two thirds of the objectives and commitments identified in the New EU Forest Strategy 2030 can be monitored at least partially (and in some cases very weakly) by the pan-European set of indicators, whereas new indicators or approaches need to be developed for the remaining third. Several of the indicators are not linked to the Strategy, and some of them are only weakly linked to the policy issues addressed in the Strategy. Furthermore, the measures in the Strategy intended to improve sustainable forest management seem to be more directive than the pan-European set of indicators. The former identifies certain forest management practices as desirable or to be avoided, while the latter aims for comprehensive monitoring of all aspects of sustainable forest management.

The study demonstrates that the forest policy concerns reflected in the Strategy, which are not by any means at present the subject of a general consensus, address several issues which are not fully covered in the pan-European indicator set, which was intended to monitor changes in sustainable forest management.

What next?

The New EU Forest Strategy for 2030 is not itself a conceptual framework for sustainable forest management but it puts into motion a process to develop a revised, more ambitious framework than the pan-European set of indicators for sustainable forest management, including “thresholds and ranges” to determine the limits of sustainability. To secure a generally accepted understanding of sustainable forest management, a participatory process involving all stakeholders concerned seems indispensable.

 Link to the article:Lier, M.; Köhl, M.; Korhonen, K.T.; Linser, S.; Prins, K.; Talarczyk, A. The New EU Forest Strategy for 2030: A New Understanding of Sustainable Forest Management? Forests 2022, 13, 245.

https://doi.org/10.3390/f13020245

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