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Kyushu-Okinawa Summit 2000

Report on The Implementation of The G8 Action Programme on Forests

Okinawa, July 21, 2000

Progress Report
European Commission

I. Introduction

The Treaties on European Union make no provision for a comprehensive common forest policy. The management, conservation and sustainable development of forests are nevertheless vital concerns of existing common policies, like the Common Agricultural Policy, and the rural development, environment, trade, internal market, research, industry, development co-operation and energy policies. Moreover, the EU annually devotes considerable funds to the conservation and sustainable development of forests. The European Commission actively participates in the international forest regime and in the implementation of the G8 Action Programme on Forests, as described in the following.

II. Monitoring and Assessment

Most of the EU's total forest area of 130 Mio ha1 are managed in a framework of regular cycles of management planning and implementation. These periodic forest management plans are based on stand-by-stand forest inventories, as well as on periodic analysis and assessment of the forest enterprise, including its economic, social and environmental functions. In many European states, national forest resource surveys, based on sampling theory and designed for statistical precision, incorporate additional forest attributes. Thus, they augment the operational data. Recently, these national inventories have provided a useful basis for assessing carbon stocks in forests.

Additionally, the European Forestry Information and Communication System (EFICS) seeks to improve the quality and comparability of these national inventories, based on pan-European criteria and indicators for sustainability. EFICS also collects information on trade, industry, employment environmental issues in the forestry sector and about community forest measures and national forestry programmes.

Two additional surveys assess the effects of atmospheric pollution and fire on forests, in the EU and other European states. During the last 12 years, crown condition of forest trees have been monitored and reported yearly. In 1997, the sample included 635000 individual trees on 28000 plots. The degree of crown defoliation in this sample serves as an indicator for adverse natural and anthropogenuous impacts on growth and stability of forests. On a subsample of 860 intensive monitoring plots, site variables and atmospheric deposition are monitored, and soil, tissue and growth are analysed. Through this sampling design, it is not only possible to monitor the state of European forests and its year-to-year development2, but also to assess at least major causes of forest decline.

A Community information system on forest fires permits monitoring, assessment and priority setting at the pan-European level and throughout Mediterranean countries.

  1. Average standing volume of timber in EU forests has increased from 85 m3 in 1950 to 132 m3 in 1990; annual cuts remove only about 70% of the average annual increment of 4.5 m3 / ha
  2. In 1998 64 % of European trees showed some degree of defoliation, about one quarter was moderately or severely defoliated.

The Commission participates in the Helsinki process which has developed Criteria and Indicators for monitoring and assessing sustainable forestry. Guidelines for achieving these sustainability goals have been issued recently for the operational level.

Externally, a widely recognised EU remote sensing programme and its associated database (TREES) permit regular systematic surveys of all tropical forests at a 100 m resolution and subsequent analysis. Results will be accessible in the future for institutional users and partners. In addition, the EU supports numerous development co-operation projects overseas, which focus specifically on monitoring and assessment, or incorporate at least a project component with that objective. Since 1997, the EU has supported 3 large forest monitoring and assessment projects in ACP countries with approximately 3 Mio euro.

III. National Forest Programmes

According to the IPF, National Forest Programmes are understood as "the process used by a country to deal with forest issues, including the planning and implementation of forest and forest-related activities." The EU does not have a mandate for a common forest policy; hence, there is no formal "EU Forest Programme."

However, numerous EU- instruments deal with forests, such as regulations within the Common Agricultural Policy, within the Regional and Cohesion Policy, within a framework of forest protection measures and within other environmental instruments, i.e. the Habitats Directive. In a process and with results that can to some extent perhaps be compared to a NFP, the EU has recently adopted the "Forest Strategy for the European Union." The Commission is currently in the final stages of consultations about a "Communication on Forests and Development" and a "Communication on the Global and Sustainable Competitiveness of the EU forest-based and related Industries".

Within Europe the EC has participated in the formulation and adoption of the resolutions H1 (Guidelines for the sustainable management of forests in Europe) and H2 (Guidelines for the conservation of biodiversity of European forests). These two resolutions establish the necessary framework for the national initiatives to the enhancement of sustainable forest management in Europe. As a result, many European countries reformulated or are in the process of adjusting their policies, strategies, and legislation on forests. The European Forest Institute has just published results of a survey on formulation and implementation of NFP's in Europe.
A recent Council Regulation on support for rural development links financial support for forestry measures to provisions in existing national or sub-national forest programmes or equivalents.

Within its development co-operation the EU supports numerous projects with the objective of building capacity for NFP's. Since 1997 approximately 3 Mio euro have been committed to this goal. The new Communication on Forests and Development contains provisions of financial support for the formulation of NFP's.

IV. Protected Forest Areas

The EU has agreed to the Helsinki and Lisbon resolutions of the Pan-European Process. Resolutions H1.6 and H2.6 commit signatories to protect forest areas of ecological fragility, climax- and primary forests, and to establish coherent ecological networks of such special forests; resolution L2 includes such areas among the criteria for sustainable forest management. The EU also co-operates in the Pan-European Work-Programme on the Conservation and Enhancement of Biological and Landscape Diversity in Forest Ecosystems. The objectives of this programme also include adequate conservation of all types of forests in Europe.

Two Council Directives, the "Birds" and the "Habitats" Directive protect natural habitats, fauna and flora, and create Natura 2000, a European network of protected sites. It links to the external "Emerald Network," created by the Council of Europe. Natura 2000 will eventually include a representative sample of all habitats of Community interest, among them many forest sites. At present, EU Member States propose areas for inclusion, many of them forest habitats. Natura 2000 should be established by 2004. It's importance is recognised specifically in the EU Forest Strategy. Moreover, a special chapter in the Commission's "Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" is devoted to forests.

The EU also provides financial support for protected forest areas through its programme LIFE-NATURE. A research programmes investigates indicators for monitoring and evaluation of forest biodiversity in Europe (Programme BEAR). COST Action E4 has the objective of promoting research on natural forests and forest reserves.

Protected forest areas are part of the EU approach to "Forests and Development", as stated in the recent Communication. Numerous forestry projects deal mainly with protected areas, others contain such components. Approximately 20 Mio. Euro have been committed to this objective yearly since 1992.

V. The Private Sector

Sixty-six percent of the EU's forest area consists of mostly small private forests managed by over 11 Mio. private owners. With their essential socio-economic and environmental functions these forests form an essential component of rural landscapes and livelihoods and, hence, of the EU's rural development policy. Moreover, the EU contributes financial support for their management and conservation within the framework of Member State's financial aid systems. Contributions cover activities such as afforestation, improvement of established forests, creation and improvement of nurseries, soil and water conservation through afforestation, reforestation after fires and calamities, forest roads and other infrastructure, marketing and processing of forest products and contributions to co-operatives of forest owners.

Over 850000 ha private and community lands were afforested in the period 1993 to 1998. The pace of afforestation is accelerating. Since 1993 annual commitments amounted to roughly 300 Mio euro annually. Overseas projects support the private forestry sector with approximately 0.3 Mio euro annually.

Certification of forest management and labelling of forest products are forest policy tools, which affect mainly the private and industrial sector in forestry. Up to now, the EU has supported this development internally mainly through grants to organisations involved in certification and by commissioning several major studies on the topic. In development co-operation, definition and development of certification systems for timber produced from tropical forests according to sustainable forest management principles is one of the main themes for support.

VI. Illegal Logging

Within EU-forests, illegal logging is essentially not a problem. However, under this term, trans-national companies are frequently accused in fraudulent harvesting, marking and trading practises. In response to several NGO complaints about the practise, the Commission has recently voiced strong support for an NGO role in this respect. Moreover, the new Communication on Forests and Development specifically foresees support for the use of rules that apply world-wide in order to tackle the problem of trans-national logging companies operating in unregulated frameworks. A pilot project for the Brazilian Rainforest, for which the EC contributes a major part of financing, contains a specific component for logging control at the state level. Many other projects, for instance in the Congo Basin, deal at least to some extent with this vexing, persistent problem.

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