Face the Future participated at an event in Brussels this March organised by The European Forest Institute on the future of European forests for climate change. Forests and the forest sector already contribute to a climate mitigation of 13% to the EU’s overall emissions. And there is potential to increase this to 22%, if climate smart forest policies are adopted.

This includes protecting forests (carbon storage), planting new forests (carbon sinks) and replacing fossil fuel based materials with wood based materials (carbon substitution). This so called “3-S Model” of storage, sinks and substitution provides a sound basis for including forests in the EU climate policy, where they are deciding on the 2030 climate policy framework this year. The new policy needs to further recognize the importance of forests and encourage the role of forests in addressing climate change.

Especially important is to stimulate action by consumers and the private sector to contribute to reforestation. One of the options is to enable companies and individuals to offset their carbon footprints by planting trees. In Europe, this option is currently contested due to EU accounting under the Kyoto Protocol. CO₂ sequestration through reforestation is claimed by countries, resulting in double claiming and potentially excluding the additionality of tree planting for carbon offsets. Fortunately, carbon financed forests are planted and protected worldwide, yet only to a very limited extent in Europe. Hopefully this will be corrected by the EU member countries when following up on the Paris Climate Agreement. It will improve the participation of citizens and the private sector in tackling climate change and improving Europe’s forests. In the end, forests are more than carbon, providing a multitude of ecosystem services.

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