The European Commission organised a significant conference “Our Forests, Our Future” to analyse opportunities to enhance the forest sector’s contribution to EU priorities. High-level speakers included Commissioner Phil Hogan (Agriculture & Rural Development), Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (Climate Action & Energy) and Commissioner Neven Mimica (International Cooperation and Development). EPF was honoured to share the same podium, Managing Board member and Garnica Plywood Director, Mr Guillermo Hernanz having been invited to deliver a unique perspective on this topic, especially plantation forestry, from Southern Europe.
Sustainable forest management, the multifunctional role of forests, resource efficiency and global forest responsibility are the guiding principles of the EU Forest Strategy, adopted in 2013. In 2018, a review of the strategy took stock of the actions implemented under the strategy, and the progress towards achieving its objectives for 2020. It concluded that 90% of the required actions had either been completed, or were underway, as highlighted by Commissioner Hogan in his opening address. Commissioner Hogan used the platform to urge that a new strategy be launched after the completion of the current one.
The first day sessions focused on the contribution of forests and the forest-based sector to innovation, growth and jobs, on EU priorities and on opportunities and challenges (balancing GHG emissions) following the Paris Agreement. EPF’s Board member Mr Guillermo Hernanz (Garnica Plywood) participated in the panel discussion on the increased demand for wood-based renewable energy, the search for bio-materials and the drive towards zero carbon buildings and products. In particular, he was asked to comment on whether the price and value of wood today will encourage a new generation of forestry? He highlighted the contribution of wood-based panels to the EU’s long-term ambition of a climate neutral Europe, emphasising that wood-based panels sequester carbon long after a tree is harvested. He presented the benefits of plywood, especially its application as a lightweight and structurally strong product. He called on the EU to support poplar and plantation forestry, especially in Southern Europe, where the future availability of suitable plywood raw material will be very challenging.
It should be highlighted that the Moderator, when introducing Mr Guillermo Hernanz, said that he had looked up EPF on the internet, and had been amazed to find that the industry accounts for 22 billion EUR of turnover and 100,000 jobs. He was astonished (and delighted) to discover that this was such an important industry and was thus all the more pleased to welcome Garnica and EPF to the podium. During the panel discussion he was furthermore boosted by the discovery that almost all of the wood-based panel industry’s biomass raw material comes from Europe, and he shared his pleasure in learning this with the 300-400 high level delegates present. In short, this was a fantastic and very positive promotional occasion for EPF, enabled by the invitation to Mr Hernanz to participate as a speaker at the conference.