AT COP25 IN Madrid – the twenty-fifth United Nations climate summit, held in December 2019 – I watched as the vice president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, elaborated on the important role of forests and biodiversity protection in the newly launched European Green Deal. The proposal to make Europe a carbon-neutral continent by 2050 had been announced by Ursula von der Leyen at the opening of the Madrid conference on 3 December – her first day as president of the European Commission. Now, in week two of the climate talks, the European Parliament was hosting a panel discussion on how forests could help countries meet their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Timmerman’s presentation emphasised the importance of forests in the European Green Deal, which aimed to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the European forests through a proposed EU Forest Strategy and emphasised that restoration would feature in a new EU Biodiversity Strategy, subsequently launched on 20 May 2020. I had been invited to present research on the same panel, showing that restoring degraded forest ecosystems would be better for the climate than planting new trees.
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