Forests protect us against climate change, removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in trees, vegetation and soil.
Over 40 % (1.77 million square kilometres) of the EU's land area is forested. Unlike many other parts of the world, forest cover in the EU is increasing – by 0.4 % per year. Forest habitats make up almost 20 % (over 14 million hectares) of the Natura 2000 network.
European forests are facing the challenge of climate change, so they need to be managed properly.
Most forestry laws are specific to Member States. But the EU is an active participant in international negotiations concerning forests around the world.
Some 60 million people rely directly on forests for their livelihood across the globe, and a further 1.7 billion depend on them indirectly for forest-based activities. And many of us need them for recreation – or artistic and spiritual inspiration.
Deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries accounts for around one sixth of global CO2 emissions.
13 million hectares of forest (an area the size of Greece) are destroyed every year somewhere in the world, mostly to make way for farms, mines and new infrastructure. Much of this logging is illegal, flouting local laws.
This seriously affects local people and threatens valuable species. It also contributes to the global problem of climate change as converting forests to other uses can cause substantial greenhouse gas emissions as a result of fires and decay of vegetation, so that forests become a source of CO2.
The EU is calling for global deforestation to be halved by 2020 and halted by 2030. It is proposing that ways to reward developing countries that act to stop deforestation should be agreed internationally.
The EU is also working with a number of timber-exporting countries to improve forest governance and ensure that timber imported from those countries is legally harvested. As of March 2013, no illegally harvested timber may be sold in the EU.