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European Commission Proposes Satellite-Based Forest Monitoring System to Address Climate Threats

The European Commission has introduced a proposal for a forest monitoring system that leverages satellite technology to track and respond to environmental threats, such as wildfires and illegal logging, impacting Europe’s forests. This initiative comes as climate change intensifies challenges for forests, contributing to a significant amount of burned land in the EU in the past year. The proposed law entails the collection of forest data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, coupled with ground measurements provided by EU member states. The objective is to gain insights into trends, including logging areas, tree volume, and the condition of ancient forests.

Climate change’s toll on Europe’s forests is a growing concern, with extreme heat and drought increasing the risk of destructive wildfires. In 2022, nearly 900,000 hectares of EU land were affected by forest fires, highlighting the urgent need for proactive monitoring and management strategies. The degradation of forests not only threatens biodiversity but also undermines their critical role in sequestering carbon dioxide, a key component in meeting climate targets.

The proposed law aims to address the current gaps and delays in forest data provided by member states, aiming for a more comprehensive and real-time monitoring system. The utilization of satellite technology, particularly the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, reflects a commitment to leveraging cutting-edge tools for environmental protection and climate resilience.

EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius emphasized the importance of understanding forest trends and their responses to climate change. The proposed monitoring system seeks to provide a holistic view of the state of European forests, allowing authorities to better predict and respond to climate hazards. Additionally, the data collected will play a crucial role in tracking and addressing issues like illegal logging, which can have transnational implications.

The European Union has faced challenges related to forest management, with clashes between EU policies and the practices of certain member states. Illegal logging has been a contentious issue, leading to legal disputes and environmental concerns. The proposed law, if enacted, could serve as a vital tool for enhancing forest health, protecting biodiversity, and promoting sustainable forest management practices.

Campaign groups, including Fern, have welcomed the proposal as a potential “golden opportunity” to gather the necessary data for safeguarding Europe’s forests. However, some advocate for going beyond data collection and urging member states to take concrete actions to improve the health of their forests. As climate change continues to pose threats to ecosystems, comprehensive monitoring and proactive measures become essential components of a resilient and sustainable environmental strategy.

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