EIT Climate-KIC: New European research-backed programme aims to increase sustainable forestry

EIT Climate-KIC forestry

EIT Climate-KIC to launch an ambitious forestry innovation programme combining bio-economy, conservation and sequestration to help deliver European mitigation targets.

The programme will aim to bring more of Europe’s privately owned, unmanaged forests into sustainable production through increased investment, new forest management techniques, the use of advanced geo-data for monitoring and traceability, and the creation of bio-based wood construction value chains to replace fossil-based material use.

Evidence base

The plans are underpinned by a body of new research initiated by EIT Climate-KIC and partners including leading institutions Wageningen University (Netherlands), INRA (France), Lund University (Sweden), and I4CE (France).

Released on UN International Day of Forests, EIT Climate-KIC and the future of the forestry sector, suggests that forests currently account for around 10 percent of Europe’s total greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, but innovation could double this impact by 2050 if afforestation is supported, forest management is improved and fossil-based construction products are substituted with wood-based ones. 

The report underlines how greater collaboration and knowledge-sharing between public and private decision-makers is needed to deliver climate-smart forestry solutions that go beyond simple carbon sequestration.

'We will pioneer the innovation urgently needed to sustain the vital jobs, economic growth, biodiversity, and valuable environmental services delivered by Europe’s forestry sector today, for tomorrow.'

A systemic approach to sector innovation is vital for EU forests to adapt and play an enhanced role as carbon sinks and carbon stores. This includes encouraging greater substitution of fossil carbon products like cement and plastics with wood and bio-based products, argues EIT Climate-KIC Chairman, Anders Wijkman.

Speaking at a EIT Climate-KIC event in Stockholm to increase the use of wood in construction, Wijkman said: 'Uniting forestry stakeholders behind bold long-term commercial and environmental goals will deliver multiple benefits. Public-private innovation must drive new bio-based markets for sustainable EU wood products and secure diverse and resilient forestry resources needed to safeguard our environment and economy for decades to come.'

Optimal balance 

Through its forestry programme, EIT Climate-KIC will help catalyse commercially viable innovation as a complement to traditional conservation approaches to ensure EU forests achieve the optimal balance between their full environmental and economic potential, according to Director of Sustainable Land Use at EIT Climate-KIC, Daniel Zimmer.

'Europe’s forests can and must play a bigger role in the fight against climate change. A more inclusive, productive and climate-resilient EU forestry sector can increase commercial returns for landowners, reinforce Europe’s bio-economy and displace unsustainable pressures on forests in other parts of the world,'' Zimmer said.

Pressing the urgency of the research and the forestry programme, Fabrizio Rossi, Programme Lead EIT Climate-KIC’s climate-smart forestry programme added:

'Forests and wood value chains play a vital role in the global carbon cycle and EU economy but climate change increases the threats they face from forest fires, storms, drought, floods, and pests. We aim to pioneer the innovation urgently needed to sustain the vital jobs, economic growth, biodiversity, and valuable environmental services delivered by Europe’s forestry sector today, for tomorrow.'

EIT Climate-KIC is currently developing a multi-year strategy with its core partners. The new capacity-building programme will enhance climate-smart and sustainable forestry and develop wood value chains and will be formally launched later in 2018.

EIT Climate-KIC and the future of the forestry sector – key findings:

  • EU forests have a key role to play in tackling global climate change;
  • Innovation in Europe’s forestry sector could double its current contributions global greenhouse gas mitigation;
  • New conservation and sustainable commercial approaches must be combined with innovation in the circular economy;
  • New business models are needed to integrate accounting methodologies and financial instruments for risk management;
  • New traceability and transparency measures must be facilitated in the wood market to improve links between sustainable forestry management and downstream value creation;
  • Substitution of fossil carbon with bio-based products, including wood construction should be boosted.

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