European countries agreed on Thursday to begin drawing up the first legally-binding accord to protect the continent's forests, the Norwegian government said.
The Nordic country, currently hosting the ministerial conference Forest Europe, described the development as a "historic breakthrough."
"The reaching of an agreement to begin negotiations is significant progress in itself," said Norway's Agriculture Minister Lars Peder Brekk.
"In the field of international forestry policy, it's a historic breakthrough," he added.
Forest Europe was created in 1990 to encourage the protection and sustainable development of forests across its 46 member states.
Negotiations on the terms of the accord will begin December 2012 at the latest and will close on June 30 the following year.
According to the report published during the conference Europe, including Russian territory, accounts for about a quarter of the world's woods.
The State of Europe's Forests 2011 said the continent's expanding forest areas removed 879 million tonnes of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere each year between 2005 and 2010 -- around 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe in 2008.
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