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What does the future hold?

14 Mai 2024

What does the future hold?

Rural communities discuss European forests and how to protect them

In the run-up to the European elections in June 2024, EU environmental policies have been facing serious backlash - from EU lawmakers themselves. At the heart of their arguments for rolling back legislation has been the challenges experienced by rural communities.

After five years in which the arguments for protecting and restoring forests seemed to have been won, the debate about the future of European land and forests became more polarising than ever.

Fern’s response has been to lean-in, and to listen deeply to the constituencies being talked about – rural European communities and stakeholders dependent on forests for their livelihoods. We commissioned the insight firm GlobeScan to conduct focus groups in Czechia, France, Germany and Poland.

The results offer strong insights into their needs, hopes, fears and proposals. These included: 

  • Rural constituents are deeply attached to their forests and feel a strong sense of responsibility and ownership towards them.

  • Rural constituents are concerned about the state of forests. They see them as public goods – and want to see action to improve industrial forest management practices and mitigate climate change.

  • Regulation is seen as the key factor to improve forest management – this is especially true among rural communities, but less the case among foresters. Regulators are not, however, perceived as living up to expectations if they don’t tackle the perceived mismanagement of forest owners.

  • Narratives used during the green backlash narratives do not resonate widely – even foresters with right-leaning political views found them extreme and oversimplified.

  • The primary and expected role of the EU is to provide support, incentives, and develop initiatives within the EU climate framework. Other responsibilities include supervision and sanction.  

Listening to those on the forest frontline offers insights that should inform future EU decisions, debates, and policies related to forests, but also broader debates on EU policy-making, as we enter the next European legislature. 

Read our briefing  Read the Globescan report

Kategorien: Briefing Notes, European forests

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