Forests: the future of our planet
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Assembly debate on 25 June 2010
(27th Sitting) (see Doc.
12284, report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture
and Local and Regional Affairs, rapporteur: Mr Timchenko). Text adopted by the Assembly on
25 June 2010 (27th Sitting).
1. Forests are often referred to as
the “lungs of our planet”. The estimated area covered by the world’s forests
is approximately 38 million square kilometres, slightly more than
half of which is in developing countries. Forests produce organic
substances through photosynthesis, using atmospheric carbon dioxide
as a source of carbon and releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere.
Because of their huge biomass, forests have a tremendous positive
impact on the composition of the planet’s atmosphere and therefore
help to counter global warming.
2. Forests perform other environmental functions. They play an
important role not only in controlling the Earth’s climate but also
in protecting the soil (by preventing soil erosion and floods) and
water (by controlling the water balance). Forests also help to reduce
desertification, by decreasing wind speed, which helps to prevent
soil erosion and accumulate moisture.
3. Forests play a significant role in preserving global biodiversity.
Tropical, temperate and boreal forests offer a diverse range of
habitats for plants, animals and micro-organisms. The majority of
the species on our planet live in forests.
4. Forests are very important for the economy of some countries
while at the same time playing an environmental, social, cultural
and recreational role.
5. The Parliamentary Assembly notes, however, that there has
been a significant decrease in the surface area covered by forests,
particularly in developing countries, where there has been an increase
in illegal logging, in violation of legislation and the international
conventions in force, leading to substantial losses, particularly
for timber-producing countries. In many cases, the proportion of
illegally produced timber far exceeds that of legally produced timber.
6. In Europe, on the other hand, the surface area covered by
forests is increasing as a result of a serious scientific approach
towards reforestation. However, a large proportion of the forests
planted in Europe are monoculture tree plantations with little biodiversity.
The Assembly also regrets that a substantial proportion of these
plantations consists of alien species.
7. The Assembly underlines the fact that the importance of European
forests for the conservation of nature was acknowledged in the context
of the implementation of the Bern Convention and that several types
of forest habitat are listed in Appendix I to Resolution No. 4 (1996)
of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the listing
of endangered natural habitats requiring specific conservation measures
and in Appendix I of the European Union’s Directive on the conservation
of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC “Habitats
Directive”). The Assembly also welcomes the establishment of the
Emerald Network and the Natura 2000 networking programme.
8. The Assembly also draws attention to the two major world conventions
signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – the Framework Convention on Climate
Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity – which concern
the conservation and sustainable use of forests throughout the world.
The Assembly draws attention to its Recommendation 1761 (2006)
forest fires and to the fact that most forest fires today are caused
by human beings and lead to considerable losses in terms of flora and
fauna. The Assembly deplores the fact that the vast majority of
fires are caused directly or indirectly by people who do not comply
with safety regulations.
The Assembly believes that it is necessary to establish more
effective monitoring to curb deforestation and harmonise the legislation
governing forestry in the different countries. The Assembly therefore
invites the Council of Europe member and non-member states and the
organisations concerned to:
up a committee within an existing organisation (the United Nations,
for instance) to be responsible for the development, adoption and
enforcement of legislation designed to preserve and protect forests;
10.2 draw up international agreements on forest protection
that would be binding on all the countries with significant forest
resources which ratify them;
10.3 devise and introduce a system for the payment of a tax
on every unit of greenhouse gas, to be used for forest rehabilitation
purposes, and to be allocated to countries which have forest resources
in proportion to the volumes of greenhouse gases absorbed by their
10.4 register, with the aforementioned committee, the organisations
concerned in countries with significant forest resources so that
these organisations have the authority to monitor compliance with
the new legislation and the forestry situation;
10.5 take the necessary steps to prevent and detect forest
fires and improve response times and forest-fire-fighting technologies
to reduce the number and extent of such fires;
10.6 develop and implement tried and tested sustainable forest
10.7 introduce criminal sanctions for pyromaniacs;
10.8 take steps to launch education and awareness-raising campaigns
with a view to preventing forest fires;
10.9 establish climate policies which take into account the
role of forests as carbon sinks and stores in order to tackle worldwide
environmental challenges such as global warming;
10.10 carry out reforestation in a carefully supervised and
scientific manner and avoid monoculture and, particularly, the large-scale
planting of alien species;
10.11 support the work being done by forestry protection and
inspection departments, in particular in dealing with insects and
ensure that forestry management complies with the following
10.12.1 use of forests taking into account their
capacity for regeneration;
10.12.2 preservation and strengthening of forests’ environmental
and protective functions, (in particular the protection of soil
and water) as well as their other functions;
10.12.3 good management and conservation of forest biodiversity;
10.12.4 setting up a procedure allowing the use of forests in
accordance with their size, functions, location and environmental
and economic conditions;
10.12.5 creating the conditions for forest regeneration;
10.12.6 compliance with science-based rules of use;
10.13 make it compulsory for forestry industries to use more
efficient processing technologies which provide a better final output
while using a smaller quantity of raw materials.
11. The Assembly also invites the Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities of the Council of Europe to study and encourage good
practices in forest conservation at local and regional level.