In its 'New EU forest strategy for 2030', the European Commission quite correctly states that forests play a multifaceted role and have significant economic, social and environmental potential. The vitality and health of forests are of fundamental importance, for both environmental and climate reasons, and in terms of enhancing forest-based economic development and people's welfare. While the Committee acknowledges that the forest strategy addresses economic and social opportunities, this should be done in a more comprehensive way. The EESC also notes that there is no answer regarding how to remunerate the non-commercial ecosystem services provided by forests, and thus by forest owners. The strategy describes a few positive examples, and the Committee calls for a truly convincing and sustainable solution for the future.
The EESC stresses the importance of making decisions at the right level, in accordance with competences and the principle of subsidiarity. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, and forest management and forest management planning are best addressed at national level to contribute to common goals. An EU-level framework in turn is necessary with respect to issues relating to the single market and to environmental and climate issues.
Advanced cooperation is needed at all levels of policymaking, and the EESC highlights the need for civil society representatives to be closely involved in the further development and monitoring of the strategy.
The EESC calls for coherence, certainty, stability, clarity and consistency in the policy and regulatory framework. It is crucial not to introduce initiatives that overlap or contradict with existing widely adopted sustainability definitions, principles, criteria, indicators, guidelines and schemes. Protection of property and free enterprise are also principles that need to be upheld.
The EESC calls for a comprehensive impact assessment of the strategy to identify the implications for market conditions, rural areas and the various funding needs, including for research and innovation, skills development, infrastructure, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and biodiversity enhancement.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the strategy pays due attention to adaptation to climate change, given that global warming transforms the conditions of trees and all organisms and is associated with forest disasters, with deadly consequences for both the environment and the economy.
The EESC encourages research into the linkages between climate change, forest ecosystems and forest management and calls for the systematic collection and sharing of reliable data on the state of forests.
The digital and green transitions of forest-based activities require new skills. The EESC points out the importance of creating quality jobs and providing workers with opportunities and adequate working conditions in the wood-based bioeconomy. It highlights the role of social dialogue in the development of skills and health and safety at work.
The EESC also emphasises the need for investment in infrastructure, to facilitate logistics and enable digitalisation in forest-based activities.
The EESC calls on the EU to actively promote a level playing field for EU enterprises competing in international bioeconomy markets and to enhance the global implementation of international agreements that contribute to the protection and sustainable use of forests.