As part of ongoing efforts, experts from Spain and around Europe met recently at Sant Pau to discuss new strategies to address the challenge of forest fires in Europe and the Mediterranean. Organized by EFI Mediterranean Facility and the Barcelona Representation of the European Commission, the seminar “Facing Forest Fires: towards a new paradigm for Europe and the Mediterranean” launched an unequivocal message: old strategies no longer work to reduce the intensity or incidence of forest fires, particularly in view of increased risk due to climate change.
In his keynote address, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, declared that the EU must serve as a pillar of solidarity for citizens facing natural disasters. To tackle this enormous risk, the EU has introduced RescEU, a European initiative to safeguard citizens against wildfires. RescEU will be a new organisation for preparedness and response in disaster risk management, where multilateralism, cooperation and a new culture of prevention are the key factors.
Ms. Ángela Iglesias, from the Spanish ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and expert in the European Civil Protection Assistance Mechanism, agreed with Mr. Stylianides about the need for more multidisciplinary meeting points for professionals. She also stressed the need for fresh approaches in dealing with fires looking at the roots of the problem. In this context, she announced the support of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture for a Forest Fire Risk Facility at EFI, part of a broader European Forest Risk Facility.
Following these interventions, four leading experts on forest fires participated in a round table debate. Several proposals emerged during the discussion. For example, social contracts can empower rural communities to take direct responsibility in managing forest fire risk. Likewise, experts assert that there is enough knowledge in science to start managing the forests with a focus on more resistant and resilient landscapes. Moreover, public authorities must stay updated about forest fire behavior in order to provide sound advice to the public during emergencies. Finally, all panelists agreed that there is a need for even greater involvement of public administrations in efforts to address this complex challenge.
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