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Sustainability crisis brews in EU forestry

The European Parliament decided in September that member states of the European Union can increase forest harvesting, provided the forest's carbon sink remains positive and sustainable forest-management practices are not violated. This decision did not include a proviso for reducing carbon emissions in other sectors to compensate for the net increase of emissions that will result from the increased harvesting. This requirement was specified by the European Commission and the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), and is in accord with the Paris agreement.

Forestry is not sustainable unless it conserves the biodiversity of forest ecosystems and maintains forest resources and their contribution to global carbon cycles, while also fulfilling four other criteria (see Allowing increased harvests is likely to violate two of the sustainability criteria by causing carbon emissions to rise for decades compared with the status quo (see and by failing to maintain forest biodiversity (see

To avert a sustainability crisis, Europe must impose a strict upper limit on forest harvesting and formulate policies to stimulate carbon sequestration. The limit should be set to enhance forest carbon reservoirs and promote long-lasting wood products to replace goods responsible for high emissions, such as concrete and steel.

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Correspondence to Janne S. Kotiaho.

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Kotiaho, J., Ollikainen, M. & Seppälä, J. Sustainability crisis brews in EU forestry. Nature 551, 33 (2017).

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