The EFI is an intergovernmental forest research organisation in Europe dedicated to developing knowledge that informs policy making. Here in Barcelona, the EFI Mediterranean Program office is located in the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, where staff work to coordinate a regional network of research centres, promote greater understanding of common challenges, and help scientists to communicate their findings to policy makers and also more broadly in society. The Barcelona office is also home to the EFI’s the Policy Advice Group, which brings together experts working on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Facility (FLEGT), and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Facility (REDD), which supports European policies designed to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation.
The EFI team analyses the role of forests in the context of current social, economic and environmental challenges. They investigate how forests contribute to mitigating or adapting to climate change and the role of forests in the bioeconomy, meaning an economy in which materials of biological origin are used in production processes to disconnect economic and employment growth from fossil fuel consumption.
The EFI also addresses the important relationship between forests and cities. In the context of accelerated urban growth, with a consequent reduction of the population in rural areas, it is important to recognise that forests are living support systems for cities. Urban residents drink water that originates in a forest ecosystem. The way that rural environments are managed also has an impact on the wellbeing of city residents. Likewise, the consumption and economic activity of large metropolises such as Barcelona, the products that are exported, and the waste generated have a significant impact on rural and forest landscape. Urban design and city dynamics affect territories far beyond city limits. So the key lies in understanding that forest management is not solely an issue pertaining to the rural domain. It may actually be more vital to the urban domain.
For years, Smart Cities proponents have emphasised the role IT technology, which is usually linked to top-down approaches for decision-making through the collection of data used to design policies and make decisions. Data is important, but other factors should also be taken into consideration. We need answers to questions such as: How can a city by “smart” if it is not also “green” and based on a circular economy that generates meaningful, fairly compensated employment and healthy living conditions for residents? Through its research and reports, the EFI promotes public awareness in relation to these and related issues.