The European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, has hailed the introduction of the new Forest Monitoring Law as a significant step towards achieving the goals of the EU Green Deal. The law aims to establish a comprehensive forest knowledge base, address information gaps, and enhance the ability to respond to growing pressures on forests. It seeks to achieve this by enabling the collection and sharing of comparable forest data obtained through earth observation technology and ground measurements. The objectives of the law include making forests more resilient to environmental hazards, strengthening their capacity to provide cleaner air, facilitating forest planning, and promoting cooperation among member states in setting long-term forest plans.
A recent report published by the European Commission highlights the alarming increase in wildfires, with a record number of 900,000 hectares of land burned in 2022, the second-highest figure on record. The report also predicts a 27% decline in forest land values by the end of the century due to the impact of rising temperatures on certain species. Commissioner Sinkevicius emphasized the need for better information to drive change, stating that the aim of the new regulation is to ensure that forests become part of the solution rather than victims or bearers of bad news.
Commissioner Sinkevicius outlined the two main pillars of the new framework. The first pillar involves forest data, with the commission taking the lead in providing standardized data based on Earth observation systems such as Copernicus. This service will be free of charge for member states and other users. The second pillar focuses on forest data collected by member states, primarily through National Forest inventories. The framework will also support the implementation of existing legislation, including the Deforestation Regulation and the Habitats Directive.
European Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, emphasized that the framework will create a financial incentive for investing in the resilience of forests. He clarified that the EU monitoring framework is not intended to replace existing national systems but rather to complement them.
However, Copa Cogeca, an organization representing 22 million European farmers, has raised concerns about the Forest Monitoring Law, describing it as burdensome and overlapping regulation. The organization argues that forest data is already reported to various international processes and suggests that the commission should utilize existing legislation and tools instead. Copa Cogeca also expressed apprehension about data-sharing under the regulation, particularly regarding sensitive information related to private property and ownership. The organization proposed limiting the sharing of collected forest data to national or regional levels to protect data and prevent misinterpretation or misuse. Copa Cogeca called on the agriculture council and MEPs to consider the concerns of forest owners and cooperatives and criticized the lack of constructive dialogue from the EU Commission.
In conclusion, the introduction of the Forest Monitoring Law represents a significant step towards achieving the objectives of the EU Green Deal. While Commissioner Sinkevicius and Commissioner Hoekstra view the law as a valuable tool to enhance forest management and resilience, Copa Cogeca has raised concerns about the potential burden and overlap of regulation, as well as data-sharing issues. The implementation of the law will require careful consideration of these concerns to ensure effective and efficient forest monitoring while respecting data privacy and ownership rights.