High level EU seminar emphasizes opportunities for the forest sector

Photo: European Forest Institute

The opportunities for the forest sector in the transition to a bioeconomy, the challenges it faces and its essential contribution to combating climate change was discussed at the high-level seminar Forests and the bioeconomy: future steps organised by the ThinkForest forum at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Ms. Sylvi Listhaug outlined the Norwegian experience, highlighting the fact that Norway’s industrial development was built on timber. Calling for “a return to our innovative past”, she said that “Cooperation is the key to success. The forest sector needs to be constantly looking for new and innovative ways to develop their business in order to be competitive in current and future markets.” These new ways included innovative wood products and construction, for example the world-leading 14-floor wooden building in Bergen, currently under construction. We do not know yet the limits of the uses of wood. “Development towards bioeconomy represents great opportunities for the forest sector”, she said.

The main outcomes of the report ‘Future of the European Forest-Based Sector: Structural Changes Towards Bioeconomy’ were presented by Prof. Dr. Lauri Hetemäki from EFI, who emphasised the major issues which need urgent policy and stakeholder attention, so that the sector can successfully contribute to the bioeconomy. He introduced the concept of ‘creative destruction’, and also outlined new opportunities such as product-related services. He called for a coherent and well-coordinated forest-related policy framework, which understood the limits of forest resources, trade-offs between different uses, regional variations and the need for long-term predictability for investments and planning.

Questions from the audience highlighted worries about climate change, and how it could on the one hand provide an opportunity for the forest-based sector (for example new creative products replacing those previously made by fossil fuels), but on the other the potential impact on forests of storms and droughts. Mr. Francesc Gambús MEP spoke about the challenges from forest fires in Spain, and the need for a ‘clean, safe’ forest. Mr. Göran Persson, ThinkForest President emphasised that “the future discussion will be in connection with the discussion of climate change.”

The ThinkForest event brought together policy makers, scientists and stakeholders and was held at the European Parliament on 13 November.