6. European Forest Week all about the future of forests
European Forest Week will be marked next week (22 – 28 November 2021). The week, which was first marked in 2008, offers a unique opportunity to raise the profile of the forestry sector and impact on Europe-wide and global debates on forests. The week is jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The theme of this year's European Forest Week is The Future of Forests.
Given the global pandemic that has caused major disruptions in economies and societies, and the acceleration of climate change, the future is uncertain. What is certain is that forests and forestry in Europe will face a number of complex challenges, including strengthening the contribution of forests to climate change mitigation and adaptation. No less important is the adaptation of forests and the forest-timber chain to global structural shifts driven by changing demand for forest products and changes in global forest resources.
Decisions adopted on a new EU forest strategy
The EU agriculture and fisheries ministers, who met in Brussels last Monday, also focused on the future of forests and their importance in the transition to a green, climate-neutral and competitive circular bioeconomy. The ministers welcomed the publication of the new EU forest strategy for 2030. The Council also noted that a balance needs to be found between the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable forest management, while respecting and preserving the diversity of forests and established forest management practices in different Member States and regions. Minister Podgoršek, who chaired the session, said on this occasion: "As one of the most forested countries in the world, Slovenia has always been aware of the importance of sustainable and multi-purpose forest management. This is why I am very happy that we managed to adopt Council decisions in such an important area during the Slovenian presidency. The content of the decisions reflects the need for all stakeholders to participate in establishing a balanced approach to forests. Only in this way will we be able to tackle the new challenges of our forests while protecting communities whose lives depend on forest resources."
Intensive natural and artificial regeneration of forests is taking place in Slovenia
Since 2014, Slovenian forestry has been facing the consequences of natural disasters and bark beetle attacks, which have affected more than half of Slovenia's forests. As part of rehabilitation from the consequences of natural disasters, over 20 million m3 of timber was recorded and extracted from Slovenian forests, and intensive natural and artificial regeneration of forests also took place during rehabilitation. Last year, 1,930,000 seedlings of forest trees were planted on an area totalling 714 ha. "We must give a lot of praise to foresters, forest owners and forestry work contractors, because successful rehabilitation and subsequent restoration of forests would not be possible without their commitment and sacrifice. Forestry and the forest-timber sector will only be able to adequately address future challenges with close cooperation between all stakeholders," said Janez Logar, the acting director of the Forest Service, on the occasion of European Forest Week.
Slovenian forests are in good condition despite natural disasters
Despite natural disasters, Slovenian forests are in good condition due to careful planning and management, as shown by forest conservation indicators. Compared to 1947, the growing stock and the annual increment of wood in Slovenian forests almost tripled, and their area also increased, from 36% to 58%.
Slovenian forests are known as an example of preserved natural environment and biodiversity, and the "Slovenian forestry school" is today known around the world as one of the founders of sustainable and multi-purpose forest management. Short-term trends, however, point to a slowdown in the growth of indicators of the condition and management of forests. After more than 140 years, the area of forests in Slovenia is no longer increasing, and pressures on forests and forest areas and numerous applications for deforestation are being recorded, in particular in suburban areas and in areas of intensive agriculture. The recorded felling still does not reach the possible (felling in 2020 amounted to 59% of the possible), while the increment and possible felling in Slovenian forests are increasing at the annual level.
Conflicts between the environmental, economic and social functions are becoming more pronounced due to the rapid pace of many changes and their impact on forests. Although there were no major problems with the coexistence of these functions in forests decades ago, forests and the forestry profession are facing many challenges today, the most pressing ones currently being the adaptation of forests to climate change, threats to biodiversity, spread of invasive non-native pests in forests, conflict between the preservation of large carnivores and cultural landscapes, providing sufficient quantities of raw materials for the wood processing industry, damage to forests caused by foraging by wild game, the issue of driving of motor vehicles in the natural environment, the spread of bark beetles from forest reserves to commercial forests, and many others.
COP26 global climate conference also about forests
At the global climate conference - the 26th Session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, negotiations were held from 31 October to 13 November regarding the implementation of the commitments and objectives of the Convention and the Paris Agreement. Negotiators looked for ways to reach the Paris target of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, according to many experts it is very unlikely that the joint goal will be achieved given the pace of the implementation of international commitments and the ambition of the goals in the national climate plans of the member states that produce the most emissions.
The forest plays an important role locally and globally in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. Agriculture, forestry and land use account for about a quarter of all anthropogenic emissions, with degradation of tropical forests due to logging and fires being estimated to contribute around 8% of global emissions. On the other hand, the world's forests (excluding deforestation) represent a carbon sink equivalent to a quarter of the global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Agreement signed on halting deforestation by 2030
At the conference, the leaders of 105 countries, including Slovenia, signed an agreement on reducing or halting deforestation by 2030 – the so-called Glasgow leader's declaration on forests and land use. The proposed agreement commits the signatories to sustainable management of natural resources, forests and land use. Some countries proposed a shift towards sustainable agriculture and increased investment to achieve the proposed goals.
As part of the conference negotiations, Slovenian experts participated in and co-coordinated the work of the European Union and its member states, including in the field of agriculture, forestry and land use. At this conference, forests were not the main topic of negotiations, but important steps were taken towards greater transparency and increased funding for climate action by 2025, and the Rulebook for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement was completed.
Additional information and info material about European Forest Week and forests in Slovenia is available in the promotional film and leaflet Forest and Forestry in Slovenia, on the website of the Slovenian Forest Service and on the website of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia.