Green Deal needs plantation forests

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The European Commission’s new Green Deal brings a new context, a new approach and importantly a new political narrative. The momentum has come, now we need to make use of it. This was the main message of the ThinkForest event on “The future of plantation forests in Europe”, which was held in Brussels on 17 December.

Participants heard from Michail Dumitru from the DG for Agriculture and Rural Development about the importance of forests for sustainability and EU climate priorities, and how they are essential for the achievement of the main EU objectives in the Green Deal.

Peter Freer-Smith, University of California Davis, shared the conclusions of the new EFI From Science to Policy study, Plantation forests in Europe: challenges and opportunities. He emphasised that plantation forests can play a key role in meeting the current demands on forests. In Europe, the area of plantation forestry is increasing, together with the proportion of roundwood and other ecosystem services provided. There is new science evidence that the sustainable management of plantations, particularly as part of a landscape-scale mosaic, has strong potential to deliver against Europe’s emerging policy priorities.

However, when it comes to policies, there is no one-size-fits all solution, as the differences in European countries in circumstances are huge. This has implications for the design of new instruments, for example those implementing the new Green Deal. ThinkForest President Janez Potočnik also highlighted that the success of initiatives like the Green Deal very much depended on how well the social story is integrated and how much ownership it is able to create among the stakeholders.

Public and social perceptions of plantation forests are changing, as the forests themselves evolve, and also with new societal awareness about climate change. Panellist Jo O’Hara from Scottish Forestry emphasised that we need to find the middle ground, connecting emotionally with people as well as scientifically. Good landscape design was important, as was interaction with stakeholders.

There were also lively discussions on the priority actions for moving to sustainable plantations in future - including the usefulness of social learning and the challenges of working with small forest owners in areas where forestry is not profitable. Integrating other ecosystem services at a forest stand level on top of wood production is a challenge, but are much easier to incorporate at a landscape level.

More information

The ThinkForest seminar, The Future of Plantation Forests in Europe, was held at the International Press Center in Brussels on 17 December.

From Science to Policy 9: Plantation forests in Europe: challenges and opportunities was published by the European Forest Institute on 10 December. Download the full study

Further information: Lauri Hetemäki, Assistant Director, European Forest Institute, e-mail: lauri.hetemaki @ or phone: +358 (0)10 773 4316

EFI: Plantation Forests in Europe - Challenges and Opportunities 2019