ThinkForest: Europe’s forests have huge potential for the green bio-economy

The ThinkForest event brought together science-policy-practice views on how to unlock the potential of forest resources and the forest-based sector in building a green bio-economy. The outcomes of the event will serve as basis for future political discussions under Rio+20.

Among other keynote speakers was Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment of the European Commission, who stated that “To maximize the contribution of forests and forestry to the bio-economy, we need to use these resources for products with high added value, and we need to produce these resources without endangering the many other benefits that forests currently provide for the environment and for society.” Minister Aigner echoed Commissioner Potočnik in saying that “The continued development of sustainable forest management is, in areas where it is seen to be necessary, a fundamental element of the principle of sustainability.” She continued by stating that “The success of our careful and forward-looking forestry policy to date shows that we are heading in the right direction.”

The European forest-based sector has a 300 billion € annual turnover, delivers about 8% of the EU’s added value for manufacturing, generates income for approximately 16 million forest owners and provides 3.5 million jobs, mainly in rural areas. Forest resources and the forest-based sector are therefore strategic in a transition towards a green bio-economy which is low carbon, resource-efficient, socially inclusive and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The potential of forests in providing environmentally sustainable solutions was highlighted by Jari Koskinen, Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry: “Forests provide excellent opportunities for developing bio-based products and ecosystem services that substitute for non-renewable materials and production. I believe that we are in the verge of new forest bio-based products and their consumption.”

The seminar was attended by Members of the European Parliament and leading forest scientists. The event was chaired by Göran Persson, President of ThinkForest, and former Swedish prime minister, who stressed the fact that “without an active forest policy it will not be possible to improve a green growth economy in Europe.” He also emphasized the need for active dialogue between the policy makers and scientists in order to base the decisions on our future on solid scientific knowledge.

Presentations of the event are available here.

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Left to right: Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment of the European Commission; Göran Persson, President of ThinkForest; Kriton Arsenis, Member of European Parliament (Greece); Ilse Aigner, Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (Germany) and Riikka Manner, Mmember of European Parliament (Finland).

Photo by Simon Pugh

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