The FINANCIAL — Today is the International Day of Forests, which is celebrated every year on 21 March to raise awareness of the importance of forests of all types.
The European Union (EU) had close to 182 million hectares of forests and other wooded land in 2015, corresponding to 43 % of its land area. Wooded land covers a slightly greater proportion of the land than the area used for agriculture (some 41 %).
In seven EU Member States, more than half of the land area was wooded in 2015. Just over three quarters of the land area was wooded in Finland and Sweden, while Slovenia reported 63 %. The remaining four EU Member States, each with shares in the range of 54–56 %, were Estonia, Latvia, Spain and Portugal.
Sweden reported the largest wooded area in 2015 (30.5 million hectares), followed by Spain (27.6 million hectares) and Finland (23.0 million hectares). Of the total area of the EU covered by wooded land in 2015, Sweden and Finland together accounted for 29.4 %.
Forest area as a proportion of total land area is a global indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is also included in the set of EU SDG indicators used to monitor progress towards the SDGs in an EU context.
Forests play a significant role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. EU forests absorbed 417 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2016, corresponding to around 9% of total GHG emissions (4 441 million tonnes), compared to less than 7% (375 m tonnes) in 1990.
Compared to the GHG emissions of each Member State, in 2016 forest land absorbed over 70% of CO2 equivalent in Sweden (74%) and over 50% in Finland (56%) and Lithuania (53%).