Following upon the publication of the European Commission’s (EC) Communication on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EC announced its intention to launch a post 2020 EU Forest Strategy (FS). A leaked draft EU Forest Strategy document has been circulated outside the EC. We’ve done an analysis of what is good and what must be changed in this draft in order to produce a forestry strategy that supports, instead of undermines, mitigation of the climate and biodiversity crises. See our memo here.
While there is much to like about the draft, a central problem is that it advocates the idea that replacing carbon intensive materials with wood will reduce emissions, for instance stating “the most important role of wood products is to help turning the construction sector from a source of greenhouse gas emissions into a carbon sink.” But a recent science brief from the JRC makes it clear that increasing harvesting for material use is not generally a climate mitigation strategy because it depletes the forest carbon sink, resulting a net loss of carbon to the atmosphere even if there is an increase in wood products. Our memo provides more details and cites to the JRC and supporting studies.
Much is commendable in the draft forest strategy, including plans for restoring forest ecosystems, prioritizing use of wood for long-lived materials instead of bioenergy, and increased recycling of construction materials. We truly appreciate its statements that we need “bigger, healthier, more resilient and diverse forests than we have today” and that “will have to reverse negative trends, improve monitoring to better capture the state of our forests, as well as step up our efforts to protect and restore forest biodiversity and with that ensure forest resilience.” However, it is troubling to see the good goals of the document undermined by an anti-science insistence that forest harvesting can be increased to serve the “bioeconomy” even as we preserve and restore ecosystems. This is magical thinking, a “have it all” mentality. The crashing state of our ecosystems tells us we can’t have it all.