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European Parliament raises climate ambition and recognizes multiple roles of forests

Earlier this week, the European Parliament had its first real political say on two files of high relevance, not only for the EU climate agenda and Green Deal roll out, but also for the role that EU forest-based industries and forest-based products will be allowed to play in the race to climate neutrality by 2050. The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) takes stock of the European Parliament adoption of the Climate Neutrality, and the European Forest Strategy reports.

Earlier this week, the European Parliament had its first real political say on two files of high relevance, not only for the EU climate agenda and Green Deal roll out, but also for the role that EU forest-based industries and forest-based products will be allowed to play in the race to climate neutrality by 2050.

As a leading member of the forest-based industries, the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), takes stock of the European Parliament adoption of MEP Jytte Guteland (SE, S&D) report on the climate neutrality law, calling for a 60 percent emissions cut by 2030, even going beyond the European Commission’s recent proposal for a 2030 emission reduction target of 55 percent and for this objective to be binding not only EU-wide but also at the national level.

To implement a 60 percent cut would be very challenging for any industrial sector and with big differences between national realities – in our case, we are already fully committed to supporting a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, our industry has a strategic interest in being at the forefront of the decarbonisation efforts as reflected in our CEO initiative published last November. However, to reduce our emissions while increasing resilient production in Europe would require a supportive and stable regulatory framework and affordable clean energy, in particular in current natural gas-dominated countries, commented Jori Ringman, Director-General, CEPI.

Having now formed its position on the file, the European Parliament can expect tough negotiations with EU Member States in the coming months, especially because the European Parliament decision is also meant to raise pressure on EU countries to rally behind an ambitious 2030 goal.

Develop non-end-use specific sustainability approach

Earlier this week, MEPs also widely backed the own-initiative report by MEP Petri Sarvamaa’s (EPP/FI) on the European Forest Strategy, anticipating the discussions on the revamped strategy expected next year. The Strategy will be one of the key contributions of the EU for COP26 negotiations.

The adopted report manages to strike a balance between the many expectations that policymakers and citizens have about the role of forests and forest management for society as a whole, recognizing that forest resources offer multiple services, including wood, clean water, healthy soil, and biodiversity. As a next step, this recognition should be reflected in the upcoming strategy with enhanced focus also to the parts beyond forests and forestry in order to better tap into the full climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of the entire business ecosystems. Forests cannot be considered as a way to substitute other sectors’ emissions and thereby allow loopholes as regards emission reductions, said Jori Ringman.

Further development of a non-end-use specific sustainability approach should be a key element in the EU’s new Forest Strategy, the development of this approach is now also encouraged by the European Parliament in the adopted report.

In most cases, forests management aims at producing high-quality timber and pulpwood, then residues, that come as side products along the way. All forest-based products tap into these diverse sources. There should be one sustainability approach embedded in different EU policies where needed.

Södra Cell Värö in Varberg, Sweden is an example of an integrated forest industry complex in which logs from forest owners are transformed into solid wood products such as sawn- and planed wood and cross-laminated timber (CLT), pulp, and wood pellets. In addition, by using process residuals such as bark and black liquor, the site is not only renewable energy self-sufficient but by being energy efficient it supplies renewable district heat to the town of Varberg and green power to the grid.

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