UK Government Opposes EU Sustainable Forestry Mandate


in Opinion

The ministers responsible for forests in Europe will convene their next high-level conference on 14-16 June 2011 in Oslo, Norway.

At the upcoming FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, the 46 member countries and the EU will take decisions that are highly relevant for forests and society in Europe and throughout the world.


Will UK government be the source of a rot that will completely destroy hopes for a pan European legal framework for sustainable forest management?

When the majority of European states are not only celebrating with their people the International Year of the Forest 2011, but willing to enter into a legal agreement for the establishment of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), not least because in some of the smaller and newer members it will help combat disreputable forest management. The UK government are to oppose, alongside the Netherlands and Sweden, (the latter having a strong existing legal framework to protect SFM ideals), the establishment of a pan European legal agreement for financial reasons.

Will this tempt those states with worst financial situations than the UK to vote against the proposals also? Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and others may well now have the fodder to back away from any agreement when the UK delivers this bombshell during the Oslo Ministerial conference on forests this week.

Within the shelved Public Forest Estate (PFE) consultation there was little mention of the inherent links the UK has with European forests and forestry, concentrating more on easily debunked new world case studies. Ignoring Europe is bizarre when you consider that the issues involved are not political but are based on geographical position and industrial links.

It becomes clear now that despite abandoning the PFE consultation the rot which has now embedded itself as a barrier for progression of sustainable forest management in the UK is to affect European partners who have and could continue to help with solutions for all the current threats to trees, forests and woodland in the British Isles and an easy transition into SFM, the cuts to the Forestry Commission would restrict the respected voice it had gained in helping to establish SFM ideals and a route into implementation in the first place.

What kind of welcome can the forestry panel expect when investigating case study in mainland Europe, when they represent a country that is fast becoming the bad apple in European forest governance.

At Copenhagen and other major environmental conferences the UK media has been quick to point the finger of blame towards stalling nations. It is embarrassing that the UK government, having called itself the greenest ever, is about to join that ever shortening list of countries.

The victory that was celebrated when the decision to cancel the PFE consultation duped many who campaigned into averting their eyes from ensuring public forests remain public and under good management, protected as best they can be from the increasing amount of threats to them. The FC cuts are a sure sign that future budgets will be radically slashed, the decision to oppose a pan European legal agreement proves that if there was any possible hope for extra funds or even existing ring fenced money for UK forestry, establishing SFM, let alone an expansion of woodland, it cannot be protected and maintained.


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Sandy Williams June 15, 2011 at 16:55

The text contained within the recently published natural environment white paper referring to Forests & Forestry lays heavy emphasis on the discoveries of the Independent Forestry Panel. But the fact that DEFRA have set in motion the hefty cuts to the FC and opposed a legally binding agreement for sustainable forestry management to the EU surely demeans the existence of the panel and its future findings as well as making a nonsense of the white paper. If I were on the panel I would be questioning what purpose I am meant to serve, particularly when you combine the over manipulation by the Woodland Trust to ensure it not only sits on the panel but also hopes to influence it further by feeding it comments by way of its members and website, (Is this legal?).

Is this clever ‘yes ministeresque’ manouvering to avoid any immediate commitments or funding or is it simply monumentally poor procedure?

The mighty chasm between the DECC & DEFRA exposed by the failure by DEFRA ministers to realise the importance of the ministerial conference in Oslo in the International Year of the Forests suggests that it is DEFRA who are failing to manage themselves and failing our forests and the security of all our trees. It also highlights that integration within whitehall is difficult, let alone Europe or further, indeed even with Scotland.

Thank goodness the Forestry Commission were represented at the FE 2011 and it is further proof that it is they we need to continue the ideals of good forest management in all its guises in the UK.

Roderick Leslie June 15, 2011 at 19:36

There is an incredible irony in all this.

The Renewable Heat Incentive confirmed recently by Chris Huhne of DECC looks like being the key funding mechanism to bring more woods into management & really move English forestry forward – including new woodland planting. Its also very cost effective in meeting carbon targets and must be one of the few renewables that doesn’t risk damage to the environment but will actually help landscape and biodiversity.

Its perverse that the Government hasn’t realised its actually doing the right thing while it does such a good job of running forestry down ! Even if it spent more cash on English forests the prospects are that growth in private business around wood energy will more than swallow them up in the thing that really turns this Government on – real economic growth, jobs, money, business + its green as well (unlike most of the growth measures !)

But to achieve this capacity is key – the expertise to bring woods back into wildlife-friendly sustainable management – and that’s where FC and its reducing staff comes in, Yes, go for efficiency but don’t just cut – redirect your fire power to put the FC experts in place to accelerate the new forestry business.

Pip Howard June 15, 2011 at 20:09

The good news contained within the speech by the UK representative at Forest Europes 6th ministerial conference that the UK are ready to sign both for the continuation of Forest Europe 2020 and for the legally binding agreement is unexpected but very welcome.

It is a far change from the position of the UK as outlined by Lord Henley of DEFRA in Brussels on the 17th May ‘ The UK, whilst supporting the voluntary aspect of Forest Europe’s work, reiterated its objections on the basis that an LBA would involve both financial and policy costs.’

Still many comments in the above are relevant and maybe this change of heart is another example of the lack of integration within government.

Paul Frainer June 16, 2011 at 08:42

Typical short sighted thinking by central govt. Wait for the U turn when RHI has been running for a couple of years and they want sustainable forestry to meet biomass wood fuel supply demands! This needs to be looked at now!

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