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Image credits: Linda Söndergaard on Unsplash, 2017

The rapid rate of climate change may overcome the natural ability of forest ecosystems to adapt. It leads to increased risk of disturbances through storms, fire, pests and diseases with implications for forest growth and production. The economic viability of forests will be affected, mainly in southern areas of Europe, as well as the capacity of forests to provide environmental services, including changes in the carbon sink function. In 2013, the Commission adopted a new EU Forest Strategy, which responds to new challenges facing forests and the forestry sector.

Climate change is identified as one of its key priority areas. Actions to maintain and enhance forest resilience and adaptive capacity are among the measures identified to ensure sustainable forest management.

Policy framework

The EU Forest Strategy (2013) responds to new challenges of sustainable forest management and the multifunctional role of forests as key aspects. It mentions the importance of actions to maintain and enhance forest resilience and adaptive capacity. It provides a basis for joint EU and Member States action, to support and enhance sustainable forest management and the multifunctional role of forests including adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The EU's rural development policy, the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), is one of the main means of EU-level funding for forestry measures. The strategy encourages actions for using forest resources in a way that minimises impacts on the environment and climate, and priorities the forest outputs that have higher added-value.

In 2018, a review of the EU Forest Strategy has been conducted in order to evaluate the progresses achieved in the Strategy implementation. The April 2019 Council conclusions recognize the role played by the Strategy in its first five years of life in promoting a sustainable forest development, and in improving the cooperation between member states, the Commission and relevant stakeholders on EU forest-related policies. In addition, priorities for 2019-2020 and beyond 2020 periods has been set up, such as further improving coordination, communication and the sharing of research knowledge and best practices.

The 2015 Forest Multi-Annual implementation Plan (Forest MAP) includes a concrete list of actions for the period 2015-2020, the actors and timing of the different activities as well as the expected outcomes. The enhancement of forests adaptive capacities and resilience through robust forest reproductive material, the implementation of forest nature-based solutions and forests contribution to the adaptation of other sectors will be specifically addressed.

The European Commission's EU strategy on adaptation to climate change includes a Staff Working Document that provides principles and recommendations for integrating climate change adaptation considerations under the 2014-2020 rural development programmes.

The EU biodiversity policy is, together with the CAP, the other European policy pillar for sustainable forest conservation and management.


Improving the knowledge base 

Differences between 2°C and 1.5°C global warming impacts on different typologies of forest have been assessed in the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 °C. Climate change impacts on desertification and land degradation have been assessed by the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), that also considers impacts on forest systems and assesses options for sustainable land use and forest management. 

Strengthening the knowledge base is deemed essential to sustainably manage forests. A strong collaboration between Member States and the EU promoting innovative research and the translation of results into actions is required.

To satisfy the urgent need to share and collect for Europe-wide harmonised information on forests, the Forest Information System of Europe (FISE) has been set up to voluntarily collect and harmonise Europe-wide information about forests, and to integrate former European information systems, such as the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), and data platforms, such as the European Forest Data Centre (EFDAC), which includes all the spatially detailed data collected under past EU regulations and the results of past EU funded projects. FISE will contain a specific climate change module.

The annual statistics on the production and trade in wood and wood products for the EU and EFTA countries provided by Eurostat also provide information on potential impacts of climate change on the wood production. 

In 2015 the European Environment Agency published a technical report on Water-retention potential of Europe's forests, consisting on ecosystem-based sustainable management approaches that comprehend forest case studies. 

EEA also published a briefing on forests within the State of the Environment and Outlook report 2015. Forests are also covered in EEA reports on biodiversity, e.g. the 2010 report "Assessing biodiversity in Europe", and the Commission publication on Natura 2000 and Forests.

The aim of the Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change  (FACCE-JPI) between 21 countries is to identify and promote measures providing the co-benefits of reducing emissions and increasing the resilience of farming, forestry and biodiversity to climate change.

In 2012, the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) has been launched to contribute to the European Union's strategy 'Europe 2020' for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. EIP-AGRI works to foster competitive and sustainable farming and forestry contributing to ensuring a steady supply of food, feed and biomaterials, developing its work in harmony with the essential natural resources on which farming depends.

In order to share knowledge and connect forestry association and workers, several networks and association have been established: the ERIAFF Network of the European Regions for Innovation  (@ERIAFF_Network), the Union of European Foresters, and the European Forestry House. The house was established in March 2007, by Confederation of European Forests Owners (CEPF) and the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR). Since then it has offered a vibrant and high-profile working and meeting place for various European forest related organizations. In addition, the European Forest Institute (EFI) has been established by European States to conduct research and provide policy support on forest-related issues, connecting knowledge to action.


Supporting investment and funding

EU funding of adaptation covering adaptation to climate change in the forestry sector is available through LIFE Climate Action and the Rural Development Funds.

According to the EU Forest Strategy, the Commission considers the Rural Development Funds, the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), one of the main means  to support the implementation of sustainable forest management, including adapting to climate change. The other European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI), in particular the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), including the INTERREG Europe programme, can complement them.  

The EU´s Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 for the period from 2014 to 2020 mainly targets the knowledge for adaptation to climate change in forestry in the Societal Challenge 2 'Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research, and the bio-economy'.

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