Forests are key to the greening of European economies

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Germany ©FAO Forestry/Rajendra K.C

Europe's forest ministers and other high-level delegates from 40 countries have gathered this week in the Finnish town of Rovaniemi to discuss how forests can help European nations move further towards the goal of greening their economies. At the conference, which marks the start of the European Forest Week (9-13 December), the delegates are expected to endorse a forest sector action plan aimed to protect Europe's forests and facilitate transition to a green economy in the region.

"When managed sustainably, forests provide an endlessly renewable supply of raw materials and bioenergy," said Jari Koskinen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland. "That's why European forests are definitely worth celebrating. We are honoured to host the European Forest Week in Rovaniemi."

"Europe is a forest-rich continent thanks to tireless efforts over the past 200 years to stop deforestation, restore forests and manage them sustainably," said FAO's Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "It is a philosophy that has spread worldwide and ensures that the harvesting of wood and other forest products never exceeds the capacity of forests to re-grow or to provide their many ecosystem services. Sustainable forests have great potential in helping nations green their economies."

"Once the Action Plan for the forest sector is approved, we will have a strong practical tool that can assist countries and organizations in the forest sector to take action, invest in their resources, identify priorities and take steps to green production and consumption patterns," said Sven Alkalaj, UNECE Executive Secretary and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.

Pathway to green economy

The Action Plan proposes that by 2020, the European countries will be applying the following key principles:

  • The forest sector should use all its resources wisely, minimize waste, re-use and recycle as much as possible. It should consume only products from forests that are managed sustainably.
  • The forest sector should minimize the impacts of climate change by sequestering carbon in forests and forest products, and substituting non-renewable products and fuels for renewable wood-based ones. For example, in construction industry wood and bamboo can substitute energy intense concrete.
  • In addition, the forest sector should significantly improve the safety and health of workers and ensure gender equality.

The European Forest Week will be celebrated with forest-related events in Rovaniemi and throughout Europe, highlighting the contribution of forests, forest products and services to a green economy.

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