EFI intervention, 2015

Intervention by the European Forest Institute

Roundtable 4: Future challenges and opportunities

FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference, Tuesday 20 October, delivered by EFI Director Marc Palahí.

This century is characterised by accelerated changes and unprecedented global challenges: climate change, water, energy and food security, migration crisis and biodiversity loss among others. These challenges are in a way or another related to the defining issue of our time: how to decouple economic growth from social and environmental degradation.

But the 21st Century is also an era of opportunities. Many scientists call it the century of biology. This is because advances in bioscience, biotechnology and bio-infrastructures offer great opportunities in many areas. Especially in helping to transform our existing fossil-based economy into a low-carbon economy, which is knowledge-intensive and bio-based. The so called Bioeconomy!

In this context, European forests, the most important natural capital of the continent, are expected to play a central role in both delivering services to address threats like climate change or biodiversity loss, and provide renewable resources to build the European bioeconomy. Such multifunctional role will become increasingly important in the coming decades, in a context of growing competition for land and natural resources resulting from an escalating global population.

This is not an easy task! Strong leadership and vision are needed to realise the emerging opportunities of the forest-based sector and meeting the emerging challenges of forest management and forest policy. This situation also requires new and ambitious partnerships across countries, disciplines, policy areas and sectors.

Furthermore, in this rapidly evolving and complex environment the role of science becomes more important than ever. Not only to foster innovation but to ensure the knowledge base for wise and effective evidence-based policies.

In this respect, we are facing a paradox. Never before in human history have there been so many scientists and so much scientific knowledge available. We have the means to understand many of the challenges we are facing, yet we need to admit that we often fail in making effective policies! This causes frustration to scientists, policymakers and society at large.

Policy making increasingly requires a good understanding of a diversity of aspects in very complex settings. Many of the issues tend to be cross-sectorial, cross-disciplinary, and global. A good example is the climate change issue.

However, science structures and incentives have developed overtime to look at even more specialised focus areas. Therefore, to effectively support policy-making science needs to place more emphasis on the synthesis and contextualisation of information, bringing together scientists from different disciplines and building appropriate national to international science-policy interfaces. In addition, the right forums, timing, and format are of crucial importance when communicating scientific information to policy makers.

In this context, the European Forest Institute (EFI) is continuously developing its operations and structures to be an effective pan-European science-policy platform. Our ThinkForest Forum and the new Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Policy Support, already supported by nine European countries, are clear examples in building unique science-policy activities.

EFI has been always committed to the Forest Europe process and in the future, we will continue to do so! EFI is committed to be a reliable and honest broker at the science-policy interface, while providing best science-based information to support an informed dialogue on European forest-related issues.

Let me finish my intervention with a quote by Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.