Early last month, for three days, the tree-lined corridors of the European Parliament became the backdrop to an exhibition and workshop entitled ‘Forest Sectors’ contribution to the EU bio-economy’.
Hosted by MEPs Riikka Manner, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos and Gaston Franco the event was in recognition of the International Year of Forests 2011.
Over the three days, forest-based sectors came together to showcase the benefits of Europe’s forests and the diverse range of products originating from wood. The event also served to remind EU government elites of the forest-based sectors’ ongoing sustainable contribution to the bio-economy. Here are just four facts:
- Forests and woodlands cover 31% of total land area and 42% of the EU’s territory
- 300 million people live on woodlands
- 2 million jobs and a turnover of more than EUR 300 billion are provided by forest-based industries in the EU
- Over the past 20 years forest cover in Europe has increased by more than 11 million hectares
The workshop itself, held on September 8th, was opened by MEP Rijkka Manner with a call for a more co-ordinated strategy for forests with respect to 2020 targets. View the Program for the workshop on 8th of September 2011 “Forest sector contribution to bio-economy” (PDF, 100kb).
Maive Ruthe, Director of the EU Commission for Research and responsible for the draft strategy for the bio-economy, outlined her vision for the most valuable use of the resources of land, sea and forests. It was clear from her speech that the DG for Research understands the social and economic significance of the forest-based sectors. Her support for the cascaded use of wood and wood fibres in all possible applications before they are used in energy production was encouraging because the proposed ambitious EU targets on wood for bio-energy puts at risk the overall sustainability of Europe’s forests and wood and paper based sectors. The DG for Research also recognises the potential for future technologies providing new materials derived from wood fibres.
During the remainder of the program we heard from a range of speakers covering, most notably, packaging’s role in reducing food waste, the sustainability of packaging derived from renewable wood fibres and, of course, corrugated packaging’s role in meeting specific needs of business and society.
In summary, the world is changing, the climate is changing and technology is changing and the forests and forest-based products sectors are well placed to meet the challenges that those changes will bring. It was apparent that those MEPs and representatives from the DG Research, DG Environment and DG Agriculture present at the event understand and are supportive of the role that our sectors will contribute to the bio-economy.
In the coming weeks we will revisit and discuss in more detail some of the issues and opportunities covered during the event.