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German agriculture minister calls for major reforestation program

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | August 30, 2019
In view of the massive damage caused by drought and pests in Germany's forests, Minister for Agriculture Julia Kloeckner called for a major reforestation program and a comprehensive approach to emergency aid on Thursday.
Julia Kloeckner
Europe   Julia Kloeckner
"We have reached a turning point in the forests," said Minister Kloeckner after a meeting with German forestry associations and other interest groups in Berlin.

Topics: German agriculture

The minister, however, told the Deutschlandfunk radio that "one thing is clear: the government cannot compensate for losses of private owners or municipal forests."

In the interest of "the common good", German forests needed to be adapted even more to climate change, said Kloeckner.

Damaged wood needed to be brought out and a large reforestation effort should follow to replant several million trees across Germany.

One billion plants were currently available in tree nurseries and could be used quickly, said the minister following the meeting.

Germany needed mixed forests that were adapted to the location and climate, so the choice of suitable tree species had to be decided based on location, he stressed.

Last year, more than 110,000 hectares of German forest had been lost due to storms, drought, fires and bark beetle infestation, according to data from the forest industry.

"If we want the forest to really remain our climate protection campaigner, then we need active forest management, in other words, the long-term binding of CO2 in wood," Kloeckner told the Bayerischer Rundfunk radio.

Without Germany's forests, "we would have 14 percent more CO2 emissions," he stressed.

Prior to Kloeckner's consultations with the forestry and trade associations on Thursday, the German forestry council (DFWR) called on the government to provide billions of euros in rapid financial aid.

The government needed to "get off the brakes now," DFWR President Georg Schirmbeck told the newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.

At the same time, Schirmbeck warned against a worsening of the situation, nothing that if heat and drought persisted, "entire forest areas" would be lost in Germany.

Schirmbeck told the newspaper that bark beetle infestation in many dry forests had doubled since the beginning of the year, a development he described as "sad".

On Wednesday, representatives from the German forestry industry had called for a comprehensive "pact for the forest".

The association of German forest owners (AGDW) had estimated that 2.3 billion euros (2.47 billion U.S. dollars) were necessary for the rapid elimination of damage and reforestation.

The German Green Party had similarly been calling on the federal government to set up a "forest future fund" worth at least one billion euros.

The allocation of the funds should be linked to ecological criteria, Green Party faction leader Anton Hofreiter told the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse.