FORESTS AND SUSTAINABLE CITIES IN EUROPE:
Contribution of forests and SFM to sustainable living and well-being in European cities
by: Silvia Pianta
The side event Forests and Sustainable Cities in Europe was held on Tuesday, 8 May 2018 at 13:15 in the Trusteeship chamber. The debate focused on the contribution of forests and SFM to sustainable living and well-being in European cities. It was organized by Forest Europe, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe. The main discussion topic was the relationship between cities, and people living in them, and forests.
Gabriela Matečná, of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic, opened the discussion, and Ľudmila Marušáková, Head of the Forest Unit Liaison Unit, Bratislava, moderated the panel.
The two first speakers discussed the importance of forests and green spaces for the health and well-being of urbanized societies.
The first speaker was Peter Mayer, of the Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape, Austria. He highlighted how increasing urbanization trends expose increasing shares of the world population to the physical and psychological stress of a life with no contact with nature. Urban life is associated with increased stress levels, more sedentary work, and higher incidence of health problems related to pollution. In this context, forests are an accessible place for urban populations to take some distance from the negative effects of urban life, given their positive physiological and psychological effects.
Katharina Meyer-Schulz, of the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology, University of Göttingen, Germany, discussed how the relationship between the German urban population and forests has evolved over time. She highlighted how forests are the most accessible contact with nature for Germans living in cities, and that forests have had an important medical role, as different medical treatments over the last centuries recognized them a key role.
The discussion then moved to the contribution of wood and other forest products to sustainable living in cities. This second topic was discussed by Harald Aalde, of the Norwegain Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Reima Sutinen, of the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The discussion focused on the important role of wood in architecture in the past and in the present. Wood has traditionally been the main forest product and has been widely used in the building sector, especially in Scandinavian countries. Its potential, however, could be more fully exploited with a change of current legislation and standards. Wood has the double of benefit being cost effective and more sustainable than concrete and steel, whose production is more energy- and carbon-intensive. The speakers also highlighted the role of other innovative wood-based products, like sustainable packaging or textiles made from wooden fibers, in providing more sustainable alternatives to traditional materials.
Silvia is a PhD student in Public Policy and Administration at Bocconi University and Junior Research Fellow at the IEFE Centre for Research on Energy and Environmental Economics and Policy.