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ENV/DEV/2039
27 April 2021

Speakers Discuss Ways States Can Confront Large-Scale Land Clearing, Boost Cooperation among Stakeholders, as Forum on Forests Continues Session

The Forum on Forests focused on ways to better implement the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests and its six global forest goals, particularly in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and the upcoming fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, on the second day of its sixteenth session today.

During two panel discussions, conducted via video-teleconference, participants from around the world spelled out the ways in which their respective countries are confronting large-scale deforestation.  They also proposed ways to boost cooperation with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, regional and subregional groups, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders.  Several speakers appealed for more funding to support sustainable forest management and technical assistance, particularly in developing countries.

The Forum began its day with a panel discussion on the themes “Thematic priorities for the biennium 2021-2022 in support of the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030” and “Interlinkages between the global forest goals and targets and the Sustainable Development Goals under review by the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2021, the work towards a post-2020 global biodiversity framework and other international forest-related developments”.  Moderated by Tomasz Markiewicz (Poland), Forum Vice-Chair, it featured presentations by Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes, Global Environment Facility; and Sheam Satkuru, Director of Operations, International Tropical Timber Organization.

Ms. Higuero said that responsible trade in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora-listed species, including forest species, hinges on sustainability, legality and traceability.  Illegal or unsustainable trade in such species can be addressed through the Convention’s robust compliance processes.  Parties to the Convention are encouraged to build their capacities to ensure its effective implementation and thus the sustainable use of forest resources.  The forest sector accounts for 80 million jobs worldwide and as many as 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas, but the commercial overexploitation of valuable forest species risks endangering entire ecosystems on which those people depend.

In the run-up to the Convention’s next Conference of the Parties in 2022, good progress is being made to improve scientific information on valued species of rosewoods, frankincense and the artificial propagation of Convention-listed plants, she said.  Its secretariat has also development projects focused on forest species, including an agreement between the Convention and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to improve the sustainability in the trade of rosewoods and other tree species in the Lower Mekong region.  Joining the Collective Partnership on Forests in 2018 has proven pivotal in ensuring Convention coherence within the United Nations and across member organizations, she said.

Mr. Fonseca introduced the Global Environment Facility as the financial mechanism for five major environmental Conventions which also helps developing countries to implement those agreements.  Stressing the need for a systemic transformation of key ecological systems and to address the drivers of environmental degradation, he said that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the link between natural systems and human exposure to grave health risks.  In no place is this connect more relevant than in forests.  The good news, he said, is that there is a strong economic rationale for change, as the benefits for protecting nature outweigh the costs.  However, the world continues to pay — to the tune of $4 trillion to $6 trillion in subsidies — to destroy ecological systems and pollute the atmosphere.

“We need to use the opportunity created by the deployment of financial stimulus packages to ensure that they contribute to a green and blue recovery,” he said.  More opportunities are needed for countries to work together to better mobilize domestic resources, including from the private sector, as official development assistance (ODA) is not enough.  The current decade is the last chance to turn the tide and meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global forest goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, among others.  Going forward, the Global Environment Facility is planning, among other things, to become more involved in projects in the Amazon and Congo River basins, he said, adding that he is optimistic that the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests can be achieved.

Ms. Satkuru said that the COVID-19 crisis has put more pressure on tropical forests.  The urgent question is how to ensure a sustainable yield of goods and services while also minimizing forest degradation.  In that regard, the International Tropical Timber Organization’s guidelines for forest restoration can be put to good use.  Its programmatic approach promotes cross-cutting aims and objectives, such as making global supply chains more transparent.  Demand and consumption of legal and sustainable forest products will have many benefits, in addition to ensuring and enhancing the value of forests.  It could well be that the value of forests needs to be recalibrated in response to climate change, she added.

Turning to the question of financing, she said that it is currently way below the amounts required, with the lack of resources hampering progress for achieving the global forest goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Financing commitments for least developed countries must be fulfilled, with a focus on microfinancing.  Incentives for the private sector also need to be redefined, together with increasing demand for sustainable forest products.  While there is strong collaboration between members of the Collective Partnership on Forests, its members need to ramp up partnerships with those outside that “comfort zone”, she added.

During the interactive dialogue that followed, the representative of the European Union said that deforestation and forest degradation are continuing at an alarming rate and that the goal of stopping deforestation is far from being achieved.  For the bloc, reversing the loss of forest cover worldwide requires making food systems more sustainable; implementing sustainable forest management in all its components, including by reducing rural poverty; and implementing sustainable agroforestry systems.  Those key tools must be part of an integrated sustainable land‑use policy.  “The best way to fight deforestation and forest degradation is to make sure that healthy and resilient forests have value,” she said, adding that their potential for producing sustainable and renewable raw materials to many value chains, including non-timber forest products, must be acknowledged.  She also recommended that the Forum promote greater coherence between international and regional forest-related instruments and seek to better integrate the global forest goals into major climate and biodiversity frameworks.

The representative of Brazil, noting that his country is home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest, underscored the need to create incentives which support sustainable forest management while also addressing the degradation of ecosystems.  Stressing the need to acknowledge a wide range of approaches, he said that Brazil’s forest code is a modern framework that hopefully can raise awareness of the many available policy options.  He went on to say that article 20 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which deals with assistance from developing countries to developing States, has been poorly implemented, including in the area of technical assistance.

The representative of Japan said that, due to recent changes in circumstances, his country is looking into revising its Forest and Forestry Basic Plan to consider biodiversity in forest management practices while also driving sustainable growth and the development of forestry industries.  Japan is also focusing on the development of fast-growing native tree species and wider use of such materials as cross-laminated timber and fireproof wood for tall buildings.  He also highlighted the need to enhance the role of forests in disaster reduction and prevention, including in developing countries.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his country attaches great importance to the protection, expansion and sustainable use of forests to improve people’s living standards and protect the environment.  In that regard, President Kim Jong Un is leading a national reforestation campaign to great success with the aim of restoring more than 1.6 million hectares of forests by 2024, using trees with high economic value.  He called for greater international cooperation to help developing countries with their reforestation efforts, adding that the international community should no longer tolerate “selfish and national individualism” which disregards the destruction of the world’s ecosystem.

The representative of the United States said that her country supports an integrated approach to sustainable forest management, as well as a balanced approach to land management.  She emphasized the importance of addressing the problem of illegal logging, stressed the need to adopt a variety of policy approaches, including through scientific research, and highlighted the value of sharing best practices and success stories.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that her country, with more than 200 million hectares of commercial and protected forests, adopted a new edition of its national forest plan which address social, economic and environmental concerns while also conforming with the global forest goals.  It is stimulating the domestic production of timber while also reducing the rate of illegal logging.  She added that the Paris Agreement can only be achieved by promoting the capacity of forests as much as possible.

The representative of El Salvador said that he agreed with those who warn that climate change, deforestation and loss of biodiversity will trigger the spread of more viruses.  With the coronavirus prompting the world to focus on economic recovery, the forestry sector must be repositioned in the context of national and regional strategies.  Access to funding, including through the Green Climate Fund, must be available for low- and middle-income countries.  He also insisted on the importance of gender equality and the inclusion of youth for the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization said that its 13 member States and two observer States are involved in a total of 50 projects worth a total of $62.7 million, including reforestation and forest restoration efforts, local livelihood improvement and research into climate adaptation, including the management of forest-related disasters.  He also discussed the group’s recent efforts towards greater cooperation across sectors and borders through its Leadership Partnership Asia programme, which aims to revitalize vulnerable terrestrial ecosystems, drylands and drought-prone areas.  It aims to build robust partnerships and to efficiently mobilize resources to transform landscapes through proven scalable solutions.

Representatives of Indonesia, Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, Argentina, China, Australia and New Zealand also spoke.

The second panel discussion of the day continued to address the thematic priorities for 2021-2022 in support of the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests.  Speakers also discussed the contribution of, and enhanced cooperation with, partners in that pursuit.  Moderated by Musah Abu-Juam, Forum Vice-Chair, the discussion included presentations by Mette Wilkie, Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests; Liliana Annovazzi-Jakab, Head of the Joint European Commission for Europe and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Forestry and Timber Section; Lu Wenming, Deputy Executive Director of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization; José Carlos da Fonseca Junior, Executive Director of the Brazilian Tree Industry; Frederik Buchholz, from Wegeningen University and the International Forestry Student Association; and Joseph Cobbinah, from the Forestry Network of Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the outset of the meeting, Ms. Wilkie reported on her organization’s work plan for 2021-2024 and highlighted various joint initiatives launched, including efforts to streamline global forest reporting and strengthen sustainable wood value chains, production and consumption.  Other initiatives sought to boost green financing towards restoration and deforestation-free agriculture.  The Partnership’s Communicators’ Network facilitates actions to increase forest‑related communication impact and amplifies outreach activities of Partnership members, while the Forest Finance Facilitation mobilizes financing for sustainable forest management and assists countries in designing national forest financing strategies, she said.

Ms. Annovazzi-Jakab pointed out that the region her organization represents contains three of the largest forested countries in the world.  Contrary to other climate trends, forestation in the region has increased over the last three decades.  While 6 million hectares have been converted to urban or agriculture uses since 1990, it was compensated by forestation efforts, she said.

Turning to the organization’s outreach efforts in Asia and the Caucasus, she recalled a capacity project for five countries aimed to help develop national criteria on sustainable forest management.  In addition, her organization assists countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to restore land through the Bond challenge.  In that context, seven countries pledged to restore over 3 million hectares of deforested land.  The Commission works closely with FAO to ensure cooperation and outreach activities.  She went on to emphasize the importance of promoting the use of wood that is low carbon and sustainable, green jobs in the forest sector and the links between food security and forests.  Strengthening scientific and policy dialogue on forests is vital, she stressed, remarking on the newly established team on boreal forests, which have been continuously overlooked in discussions on forests and climate change.

Mr. Wenming outlined the contributions his organization intends to make in reversing the loss of forest cover internationally.  Pointing out that bamboo is highly effective in landscape restoration programmes, he said his organization conducts training courses benefitting farmers across the world and has supported the establishment of 20,000 hectares of bamboo forests.  Bamboo and rattan forestry are two of the most available and generous sources of income and provide ecosystem support as they can replace wood, plastic and PVC, thus avoiding deforestation in sensitive areas and reducing emissions.  The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization continues to work on biodiversity‑preservation projects, but further action will require investment, he stressed, emphasizing the need for resource mobilization and governance designed to help countries integrate bamboo and rattan into national sustainability programmes.

Mr. da Fonseca said that forests must be an integral part of a post-pandemic green recovery plan.  Keeping forest production chains operational has been an important step in combating COVID-19 in Brazil, he said, highlighting the actions taken to protect forest industry employees and contributions of personal protective equipment throughout the country.

Turning to the industry’s efforts to reach international sustainability goals, he pointed out that 9 million hectares of planted forests in Brazil are responsible for stocking approximately 1.88 billion tons of CO2.  Emphasizing the link between job generation and sustainable growth, he reported that the planted forest sector generated 1.3 million direct jobs in 2019.  Furthermore, Brazil’s Government approved the National Development Plan for Planted Forests to guide expansion in the sector, he said, reporting that an increase of 2 million hectares is expected by 2030.  That will not only help the country’s economy, but also assist in recovering degraded areas, creating new carbon stocks and establishing new preserved areas.

Mr. Buchholz reported that the objectives of the March 2020 major group-led initiative included capacity-building on integrated landscape management as a promising governance framework to promote sustainable land and forest management and identifying opportunities to promote such management on a global scale.  He went on to highlight ways in which integrated landscape management presents a viable solution to achieve the global forest goals and the Strategic Plan for Forests, saying that it can provide a basic framework for balancing competing demands and integrating policies and sector plans for multiple land uses within a given area.

However, effective integrated landscape management will require the decentralization of power whereby decision-making is transferred to subnational or local institutions, he said.  As for efforts to encourage wood energy production outside natural forests through afforestation of plantations, he said the participation of all stakeholders in the development of the regional land-use plans ensures they are sensitive to the needs of different actors and the afforested woodlots fit into the livelihood system of the local population, without risking future land-use conflicts.

Mr. Cobbinah reported on the progress of the implementation of the umbrella workplan developed in 2017 by experts from 25 countries to achieve the Strategic Plan for Forests, including capacity-building and the mobilization of the resources.  He went on to highlight completed projects across five of the global forest goals including building the capacity of community-based forest associations to access and share information on markets, pricing and raw material hotspots and collecting gender disaggregated data to inform decisions on gender equality programmes.  Methodologies for territorial planning for indigenous nationalities from the Amazon were also developed to support indigenous life plans and integrate it into territorial planning.  Sustainable forest management cannot be achieved without reaching out to the forest-dependent communities, he stressed, adding that the overriding objective of the major groups is that the 2030 Agenda leaves no one behind.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Governments and international organizations reported on their own progress and challenges in implementing the Strategic Plan for Forests.

The representative of Kenya said that, through working with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, his country has seen growth in the collaboration of foresting efforts.  That includes a partnership with Africa Development Bank for investment in 15 regional areas to enhance the sustainable management of forests.  He also highlighted other integrated regional management collaboration with FAO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank in the development of regional forest policy, conservation and natural resources.

The representative of Peru stressed that it is important to consolidate regional efforts including sharing practices, exchanging information and strengthening the capacities of policy drafters.  Desertification is one of the greatest environmental problems for humankind, she underscored, saying that Peru has 3,000 kilometres of dry forests that host a considerable amount of biodiversity which are at risk.  For its part, Peru plans to restore deforested and degraded areas in the coming year, she said, adding that it is important to promote sustainable management through programmes in the network.

The representative of Finland stressed the need for inclusiveness when addressing the sustainable management of forests and encouraged all stakeholders to participate in discussions and policymaking, especially youth delegations.

The speaker for the International Union of Forest Research Organizations said that his group represents scientists across a range of disciplines which allows it to provide objective evaluations of United Nations programmes.  The forest science community has much to offer, including efforts to address the impact of the pandemic and build back better.  Its work involves significant collaboration in and out of the forest sector.  Results of its scientific assessments and background papers on the pandemic and impacts of disasters on forests have informed global discussions and indicate a strong interest from Governments and policy experts in reliable scientific data.

A representative for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said it is essential to find commitment from financial institutions who invest in supply chains.  It is key for commercial banks and investors to move capital towards clients that meet net‑zero commitments and work in production industries that are decoupled from deforestation, he said.  Eminent legislation and key performance indicators are needed to develop track records and market transparency, he went on, adding that UNEP is working to enhance existing information on sustainable business models.

Also speaking today were representatives from the European Union, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, United States, Guatemala, Malaysia and Brazil.

For information media. Not an official record.