Debates on European forests in Warsaw2007-11-06
Minister of Environment Arūnas Kundrotas together with other European ministers in charge of the forest sector in Warsaw signed the declaration on more efficient preservation of forests. The role of forests in contemporary life, threats to forests and their protection have been the basic topics of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, which started yesterday, on the 5th of November, in Warsaw. This two-day conference received ministers from 43 countries and representatives of international environmental and trade organisations as well as non-governmental organisations.
Links between forests and the energy sector was among the crucial themes of political debate. The particularly relevant role of forests in countries’ self-supply of renewing energy resources was highlighted. The new energy independence policy has provided them with greater opportunities to use timber to develop the heating and electric power economy. The conference participants also underlined the special role of forests in protecting bodies of water.
On the other hand, in all countries forests have suffered increasingly from the after-effects of climate change with growing numbers of forest fires and ecosystem diseases. Overcoming these after-effects has been among discussion topics in Warsaw. The conference participants noted that Europe has apparently led the reinforcement of forest protection and the increasing of forest areas, yet other regions of the world should also feel a lot more responsibility to preserve the planet’s ‘green lungs’.
At present, forests in Lithuania occupy one third, 32.5%, of the country’s territory. As Minister of Environment Arūnas Kundrotas noted at the conference, this has been the result of consistent work. Within the last five years, our forest areas have added 100,000 hectares. Already now about 15% of total heat energy in Lithuania is generated using timber resources. These resources are far from endless. Therefore attempts are to increase the country’s forest coverage. In the minister’s opinion, experience in some European countries shows that excessively high subsidies for biofuel growers and heat producers who use timber may distort traditional timber markets and cause clashes between traditional timber consumers and energy producers.
The Warsaw Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe is already the fifth one (conference website http://www.mcpfe.org). The first conference was convened in 1990 in Strasbourg. It then developed the guidelines of the co-operation strategy and decided to carry out forest monitoring using the single methodology and to prepare status reports on European forests. Subsequent conferences were held in 1993 in Helsinki, in 1998 in Lisbon and in 2003 in Vienna.
Public Information Division, Tel. 266 3660
6 November 2007