Forest sector calls for EU trade action to support decarbonisation

The EU should secure global market access for European forest products as part of the drive for carbon neutrality by 2050, forest industry bodies have said.

A coalition of trade groups representing the paper, wood, furniture, printing, and bioenergy sectors said securing global competitiveness would help increase the use of forest products providing a “robust solution for reaching a carbon-neutral EU economy”.

The industries set out their market development proposals as part of their “vision” for 2050, a response to the European Commission’s long-term strategy for decarbonisation.

The report, supported by forest owners’ and farmers’ groups, describes how the industries can play an “essential role” in decarbonisation; substituting for carbon-intensive raw materials and fossil fuels, eradicating waste, and driving resource efficiency. 

Pathways to meet the industries’ goals over the next three decades would see innovation boosted, sustainable raw materials supply, the development of markets. 

Action is required, the report says, on both demand and supply side of markets. Measures to boost wood product use are expected to increase carbon removal potential from forest growth, increase the carbon storage effect of harvested wood, and the substitution effects of replacing fossil fuels. 

The report calls for harmonised European standards and a unified assessment framework for environmental and climate performance to enhance consumer confidence, a reinvigoration of the European internal market for sustainable products, and a level playing field between forest-products and non-renewable fuels by removing EU and national level obstacles and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

The trade groups call for Europe to ensure implementation of sustainability requirements in the global trade of timber products while promoting sustainable forest management with timber producing countries. 

The EU, the report adds, must ensure forest products are able to enter other markets and are not discriminated against, ensure faster procedures to tackle market barriers, and prevent unfair trading practices by addressing market distortions with a “robust implementation of EU trade defense instruments”. 

If its vision is implemented, the sector says it has the potential to achieve annual growth of around 3% over the period to 2050, compared to projected EU GDP of 1.5%

Director general of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) Jori Ringman said: “The EU’s sustainably-managed forests produce today an overall climate mitigation impact amounting to 13% of European greenhouse gas emissions and they keep on absorbing CO2.”

Follow up: Report executive summary.

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