L’eurodéputé grec Kriton Arsenis (Socialistes & Démocrates) est l’auteur d’un rapport du Parlement européen sur le livre vert sur la protection des forêts de la Commission et sur la manière de préparer les forêts au changement climatique.
Il s’est confié à Outi Alapekkala pour EurActiv.
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How do you think the EU's EU strategy on forests should be strengthened, particularly in response to challenges posed by climate change and biodiversity?
The strengthening of this link is described in detail in the report thanks to the positive suggestions of many colleagues. Two basic issues need to be addressed:
Firstly, there is a need for recognition and action to enhance forests' protective functions and the need for better coordination and action towards securing these functions. Functions of forests in terms of air quality, civil protection, soil and watercourse regulation should form a distinct part of the new Forestry Strategy to complement EU policies for civil protection, floods and water, as well as the climate adaptation strategy, which focuses on resilience. This is a point raised by the European Parliament, both in the current report as well as last year's report on climate adaptation.
Secondly, with regard to biodiversity, compliance with the EU acquis is an essential step. The full implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives remains elusive and will need to be better integrated into management systems. A simple way to achieve this is by strengthening the biodiversity dimension of forest management plans, starting from those forestry projects which receive EU funding.
The broadening of the debate to the provision of ecosystem services as reflected by the new biodiversity strategy (COM 2011/ 244) should also be reflected in the EU Forestry Strategy.
Your report backs the need for increased levels of funding for EU forest protection measures, through the rural development pillar of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). Can you give examples of any amounts (of money) or priorities for action?
I would refrain from speculating on the exact amount of funds needed. However, we have to bear in mind that forest spending (not necessarily for protection) does not exceed 1% of the CAP budget, which in no way reflects the role of forests for the countryside.
In addition to the need to increase the forest budget in relative and absolute terms, the main priority must be extending eligibility for public forest managers and producer groups, two shortcomings that greatly limit the application of the relevant measures in practice. For example, the report calls for support for the setting up associations of producers.
This increase should go hand in hand with cross-compliance instruments to ensure forest measures are compatible with biodiversity and other policies. This is essential.
Long-term plans needed to guide management could also be financed as a priority. Establishing planning that is "flexible, adaptive and participative, taking into account all conceivable scenarios, providing a realistic and reliable basis for management decision support," as foreseen in the Commission's policy papers, may entail costs which should not be borne by individual forest owners.
At the same time, let us not forget that the report also raises the issue that instruments beyond the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) may be necessary.
Your report refers to payments for ecosystem services that acknowledge the economic value of forests and reward forest biodiversity conservation and the restoration of forest ecosystems. Can you give any indication of the amounts (of money) for these payments and of priorities for action? How will this type of payment/service be exchanged?
The report calls for a "report to Parliament and the Council on options for payment for ecosystem services that acknowledge their economic value and reward forest biodiversity conservation and the restoration".
In this respect I believe that the ENVI committee is responding to the latest Council conclusions on biodiversity and the new CAP agenda. Much work and elaboration is needed to prepare this kind of transaction and we should proceed with adequate safeguards. It is essential therefore to have the relevant basis for policymaking before any decisions.
However, priorities for action are already emerging – literally from the ground up – and reflect the environmental problems European societies face. In several cases in Germany, for example, forest owners are rewarded either by water utilities or by water bottling companies for the services their forests render for water quality. In this case the reward is tied to consumer prices for water or to the cost of mechanical water treatment methods.
Wild honeybee conservation is also emerging as a priority. The economic value of bees is increasingly recognised and estimated to be 10% of agricultural production. In addition, the importance of wild bees is key for the survival of a species also threatened by the dominance of commercial strands.
The same argument – primarily genetic – can be made for thousands of species of flora, including commercial trees whose 'relatives' in the wild may be better adapted to climate change.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that in these cases price allocation takes place at the local or regional level. That is, the 'ecosystem service' is tangible and quite immediate. I would strongly favour this response especially when compared with distant, often speculative markets such as the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).
Referring to point 69 of your report on the ETS and the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) - how do you think the Commission should reconsider the issue to provide funding for carbon savings from LULUCF activities?
For the EU to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction commitments, policy coherence in climate legislation is essential. Paragraph 69 highlights the reasons why including emissions from LULUCF activities in the EU ETS mechanism may hamper the achievement of climate change objectives.
However, the call for new proposals on how to provide funding for carbon savings from LULUCF activities reflects the widespread opinion that owners of forests should be rewarded for their forests' sequestration and carbon of storage, reflecting the wider ecosystem services debate as outlined above.
In this context, I share the concern of colleagues who see a big paradox in monetary support for carbon savings in forests outside the EU through the Clean Development mechanism (CDM) but not equivalent mechanisms inside the EU.
What are your expectations from the ministerial conference on the protection of forests in Europe (Oslo 14-16 June)?
For many people, the limited success of previous attempts at multilateral forest agreements – or the limited success of operational environmental agreements – is a cause for scepticism.
However, progress already achieved by the Forest Europe process with regard to guidelines for sustainable management allows room for optimism. Oslo will be the beginning of a long process.