European forest ministers meeting in Oslo have heard about the “huge” potential of Europe’s forests to mitigate climate change.

Ministers meeting for the Forest Europe conference were shown the results of “The State of Europe’s Forests 2011” report, which says between 2005-2010, Europe’s forests have annually absorbed about 870 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere – equivalent to about 10% of the region’s green-house gas emissions in 2008.

The report also details wood products’ ability to store carbon throughout their life time, but also the threats of storms, fire and disease to forests.

“Sound and effective policies for forests and their management are required to sustain the environmental, economic and social benefits of forests,” said Lars Peder Brekk, Norwegian minister of agriculture and food.

“The results of the report are essential for policy decision makers for formulating effective future forest policies.”

The report says securing the provision of forest goods is one of the biggest challenges that countries face, particularly increased demand for the supply of wood and renewable energy.

The two-day conference also saw ministers debate a common vision, strategic goals and measurable targets for European forests by 2020. The ministers are further expected to agree on the Oslo mandate for negotiating a legally-binding agreement on forests in Europe.

Such an agreement would be a historical step forward – for forests and for a European and global forest policy co-operation.