Although forest cover in the EU has grown in the past 30 years, the condition of those forests is deteriorating. Sustainable management practices are key to maintaining biodiversity and addressing climate change in forests. Taking stock of the EU’s 2014-2020 forestry strategy and of key EU policies in the field, a special report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) points out that the European Commission could have taken stronger action to protect EU forests, in areas where the EU is fully competent to act. For instance, more could be done to combat illegal logging and to improve the focus of rural development forestry measures on biodiversity and climate change.
Funding for forested areas from the EU budget is much lower than funding for agriculture, even though the area of land covered by forests and the area used for agriculture are almost the same. EU funding for forestry represents less than 1 % of the CAP budget; it is focused on support for conservation measures and support for planting and restoring woodland. 90 % of EU forestry financing is channelled through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
“Forests are multifunctional, serving environmental, economic and social purposes, and setting ecological boundaries, for example on the use of forests for energy, is ongoing” said Samo Jereb, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “Forests can act as important carbon sinks and help us reduce the effects of climate change, such as forest fires, storms, droughts, and decreasing biodiversity, but only if they are in a good state. It is the responsibility of the European Commission and the Member States to step up actions to ensure resilient forests.”