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Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers - Presidency conclusions

Forest biodiversity:

Challenges and opportunities for climate change adaptation and mitigation

  1. Forest habitats and biodiversity are key to the functioning of the biosphere, and forests play a crucial role in stabilising the Earth’s climate as important carbon sinks, in mitigating desertification, and in providing essential services, such as preventing soil and water erosion and regulating local weather; forests are multifunctional.
  2. Climate change impacts forests in many ways, such as through changes in productivity, increases in water or biodiversity stress, desertification processes, and storm and fire risks. Forest fires, floods, droughts and storms seriously affect Europe, causing loss of human life and property, as well as environmental damage; climate change therefore presents a major challenge to the long-term sustainability of forests.
  3. This challenge calls inter alia for the development and implementation of projects concerning the adaptation of forests to climate change. In this respect the implementation of Natura 2000 is an important tool.
  4. Healthy and sustainably managed forests can represent a valuable opportunity for mitigation in the fight against – and adaptation to – climate change, through the provision of vital environmental services; under certain conditions or criteria, they can also contribute to renewable energy and materials.
  5. Deforestation is a major international issue, not least because of its importance for climate change, as recognised at Bali for the post-Kyoto period; the EU should be ready to contribute to finding an approach for its successful resolution.
  6. In the EU’s efforts towards achieving ambitious targets for the share of renewable energies and in particular bio-energy, the rate of forest utilisation is likely to rise significantly.
  7. There is, therefore, a significant challenge to ensure that forests are used wisely as a source of biomass, including (as appropriate) as a sustainable source of second-generation biofuels, without compromising their multifunctionality by sacrificing their long-term ecological and socio-economic stability and environmental objectives, including the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity, nor compromising the contribution of forests in the fight against climate change and desertification.
  8. In order to ensure sustainable forest use in Europe and to retain the multifunctional role of forests, better information is required on additional production potential without compromising their key environmental role, taking into account the constraints that may result from the adaptation of forests to climate change.
  9. When forest biomass is used as feedstock, the choice between different bio-energy applications should be based on efficiency in energy output and optimum greenhouse gas reduction potential.

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Date: 13.04.2008