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Bringing knowledge of boreal forests and Nordic forestry to EU forest policy

2021 brought an avalanche of regulation from the EU

In 2021, the European Commission published a large number of forest-related policy proposals. Although the EU does not have a common forest policy, the use of forests is directly or indirectly affected by various sectoral policies, in particular climate, energy and environmental policies. Among other things, the Commission presented a number of regulations related to climate change mitigation as part of the “Fit for 55” preparedness package. The EU Forest Strategy was also published.

In addition, the Commission published EU taxonomy’s technical screening criteria for climate change mitigation, a proposal for regulation on deforestation-free products, and promoted the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

A common feature of these proposals is their emphasis on the role of forests in terms of climate and biodiversity objectives, with less attention paid to the economic aspects of forest use. Often, proposals also offer similar policies and criteria for all vegetation zones, without taking into account differences in natural conditions or forest structure. 

Monitoring of EU policy was intensified – active contacts with MEPs and the Commission

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) has increased both the exchange of research-based information for EU decision makers and its own monitoring of EU forest-related policies. During the pandemic, Luke organised several interactive virtual meetings with Finland’s Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), as well as representatives of various Commission Directorates-General.

Based on Luke’s research, the meetings discussed—among other things—the inventory of forests and the challenges posed to the greenhouse gas inventory by the reform of the EU’s land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) Regulation. Luke has also consulted MEPs involved in LULUCF work, organised a forest webinar for EU decision makers during the preparation of the EU Forest Strategy, and presented the research results to the Commissioners visiting Finland. Research findings on boreal forests have been incorporated into decision making, including through public consultations on various policy proposals. 

Impacts on policies through increasing knowledge on scientific results

Luke’s EU policy work has sought to increase decision-makers’ knowledge of boreal forests and Nordic forestry. By responding to the information needs of Finnish MEPs, it has been possible to integrate scientific knowledge and results into decision making and to influence—at least to some extent—the way in which policies take shape. By increasing the monitoring of EU policy, it has also been possible to increase the awareness and transparency of its effects on the Finnish forest sector to both decision makers and the general public in Finland. 

“During our visits to Brussels, it has been great to see that there has been a demand for Luke’s expertise. Scientific knowledge and results are needed to support policy”, says Mika Mustonen, Luke’s senior specialist. “The demand for our knowledge is likely to remain high in the coming years, as work on the ongoing processes is still in progress in the EU in many respects, and new needs will certainly emerge”, adds Antti Mutanen, research scientist at Luke. 

Photo: Erkki Oksanen

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