What is the state of European Union forests?
For decades, intensive forestry practices in Europe have meant that healthy biodiverse forests across the EU have been replaced with trees that resemble crops. In 2020, three quarters of forests in Europe were managed through clearcutting, and many of them are in a bad state. Only two per cent of the EU’s primary forests remain, but despite this, not all are protected, and some are threatened with logging.
Intensive forest management not only destroys biodiversity and ecosystems, but also reduces our ability to reach EU and global climate goals. One of the main drivers of such management is that the EU allows Member States to subsidise the burning of forest biomass in the name of bioenergy in Europe.
But it’s not just nature that’s suffering. The extractive forestry industry offers fewer and fewer forestry jobs, undermining sustainable rural development. Intensive logging is also at odds with other less intensive activities, threatening Indigenous Sámi peoples’ livelihoods.
The EU has launched a series of policy initiatives to help it reach climate goals such as the European Green Deal and Fit for 55. These will only work if they put efforts to heal the EU’s degraded forests and improve the lives of those who depend on them at their centre.