An area of Europe equivalent to one-fifth of Belgium has burned so far this year, the greatest surface at this point in the calendar year since records began in 2006. As this and the other realities of the climate crisis made their presence felt, Professor Sten B. Nilsson wrote an opinion piece for Euractiv outlining how to prevent Europe’s forest fires.
High amongst his recommendations were findings from a recent report he authored for Fern: Ten things the legislative proposal on EU forest observation, reporting and data collection needs to consider.
He explained why we need far more detailed information about the distribution of fire risks in the landscapes where fires are most common, and comprehensive information about forests to assess possible developments of fires and fire-fighting strategies.
In practical terms, this includes the information required to build forest fire lanes – gaps in vegetation to slow or stop wildfires – and identify where we have available water, or may need to build water ponds.
One potential solution to this information gap, he suggested, lies in the Law on EU Forest Monitoring (expected summer 2023) to be proposed by the European Commission as part of its 2030 Forest Strategy.
For the strategy to work, however, Member State governments must get behind it. One Swedish newspaper took their government to task for its official concerns that increased monitoring would be equivalent to “Brussels taking control of Swedish forests.” The newspaper pointed out that years of business-as-usual forestry has led to increased fires and dried-out wetlands, and states that “Perhaps it’s just as well that the EU takes control if that is what it takes to make Swedish politicians understand.”