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.