Safe and resilient forests: Commission works for wildfire prevention
The Commission has published new guidelines to facilitate a better understanding of land-based wildfire prevention and effective responses on 22 March 2021. They point towards prevention measures that can be taken through governance, planning and forest management, and outline how EU Member States can access EU funding for wildfire resilience and work together at EU level.
Forests are necessary for biodiversity, climate and water regulation, the provision of food, medicines and materials, carbon sequestration and storage, soil stabilisation and the purification of air and water. We have to protect, restore and manage forests sustainably, as they are crucial for our lives and livelihoods. In recent years, the impact of wildfires on people and nature has increased. The new guidance looks at interconnected factors behind this increase, and provides an overview of existing principles and experiences on managing landscapes, forests and woodlands that can save lives.
The European Green Deal announced a new EU Forest Strategy for 2021 to ensure effective afforestation, and forest preservation and restoration in Europe. This will help to reduce the incidence and extent of wildfires. The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 also aims to contribute to the EU and its Member States being adequately equipped to prevent and respond to major wildfires, which seriously damage forest biodiversity. The new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change puts emphasis on the need to strengthen the resilience of forests and includes several actions to support this objective. Climate change is already damaging Europe's forests directly and indirectly through fires, droughts and unprecedented bark beetle outbreaks. Such impacts are likely to increase in the future.
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “Trees are our allies in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis. A tree helps purify the air, cools cities, and takes up CO2. Humans already put enormous pressure on the world's forests, and wildfires are an additional threat. With the risk of wildfires exacerbated by rising temperatures and increasing droughts, stronger forest protection, better prevention and faster responses are crucial.”
Wildfire risks can be successfully addressed through better management and land-use planning. Mitigating wildfire risks requires looking at land management to ensure that the structure, composition and use of forests, woodland and other vegetation landscapes are more resistant and resilient against wildfires. Citizens also need to be informed and educated about wildfires. The Commission provides funding for such education actions and facilitates cooperation and the coordination of joint responses.
In addition, the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed country profiles under the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS) to support wildfire management and disaster risk reduction globally and in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean. This work is part of the EU's comprehensive approach to support conservation and sustainable development of Amazon forests. There are at present more than 50 EU programmes on this regional priority, and the new budget for global Europe will also cover a specific Amazon strategy, coordinated with EU Member States.
European Cooperation and Partnership Network (ECOPNET) has expertise on EU Forest Strategy and please contact us for further questions that you may have.
Source: European Commission Press Corner