Marking the United Nations' 'International Day of Forests', representatives of European forest owners, managers and forest-based industries have called for more awareness and support to utilise the potential of forests to contribute to a sustainable future.

The forestry lobby insisted that trees play a crucial role in providing multiple benefits for citizens – recreation, clean air and water, biodiversity, scenery and culture, as well as a raw material for construction, furniture, pulp and paper, and renewable energy. Moreover, forests contribute to job creation and economic growth.

In this context, EU forests have the potential to keep – and possibly increase – their contribution to these needs in the coming years. On average, 60% of the annual growth of EU forests is harvested, leading to a regular and significant increase in wood resources.

Piotr Borkowski, executive director of EU forestry body EUSTAFOR, and Fanny-Pomme Langue, secretary general of CEPF, stated: “There is still an important unexploited potential in terms of the wood and non-wood products and services provided by European forests. EU policies should contribute to unlock this potential so as to better meet existing and future demands.

"However, it should be stressed that sound economic prospects are essential in order for European forests to meet the growing social and environmental demands which are also being made on them."

According to Sylvain Lhôte, director general of CEPI, the European association representing the pulp and paper industry: “The EU should balance its target setting and demand-side approach with measures to increase supply. These measures should secure and improve forest growth and mobilise more wood from European forests for all kinds of uses."

Patrizio Antonicoli, secretary general of CEI-Bois added: “Forests and wood-based products play a central role in climate-change mitigation. This year’s theme of the UN International Day of Forests furthermore offers the opportunity to highlight the high potential contribution of timber building systems and wood construction materials.”

The participating organisations jointly highlighted the importance of better acknowledging and coordinating existing EU and national forest-related legislation which is already in place, to safeguard sustainable and multifunctional forestry, and ensure the long-term competitiveness of the sector.