Apr 23, 2009 News
– UN Forum on Forests
Sustainable forest management policy is crucial at a time when climate change, the financial crisis and unsustainable development are posing severe risks to this invaluable global resource, United Nations officials have said.
“Forests are not just timber and they are not just carbon sticks,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests, the only global body for comprehensive deliberation on forest policy, which started its annual meeting Monday at the Organization’s Headquarters in New York.
The Guyana Forestry Commission has not sent a representative to the Forum, Commissioner of Forests James Singh told Kaieteur News yesterday. However, he said representatives of the Guyana Government in New York could be attending the Forum.
The Forum on Forests is the only global body for comprehensive deliberations on international forest policy. Comprising all 192 Member States of the United Nations, it meets biennially in New York, with each session focusing on specific thematic and cross-sectoral issues, as set forth in its programme of work for 2007-2015.
The current two-week session has a thematic focus on “Forests in a changing environment” and “Means of implementation for sustainable forest management”.
The government here has said that Guyana’s deforestation rate is one of the lowest in the world, with 80 percent of this country’s forests still intact. In addition, sustainable forestry practices are enforced by the Guyana Forestry Commission.
Given the world’s urgent need for national scale solutions to climate change, President Bharrat Jagdeo has suggested that Guyana would be willing to consider placing almost all of the country’s rainforest under long-term protection if the right market-based incentives were created to make this economically worthwhile, “provided it does not affect the legitimate development aspirations of our people or trespass on their sovereignty over the forests.”
Mr McAlpine, quoted earlier, stressed that at this session of the Forum, member States need to step forward and finally reach agreement on the ways and means to finance sustainable forest management.
“This is a 17-year discussion, and it is time to stop talking and take action.”
Globally, forest covers about 30 per cent of the world’s land area, amounting to just under four 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The World Bank estimates that more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and that international trade in global forest products amounts to $270 billion a year.
At the same time, the FAO said, 13 million hectares of forest are lost each year due to deforestation, accounting for up to 20 per cent of global greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.
In 2007, at the last Forum, countries agreed to create a historic mechanism for international cooperation in forest management, which Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, called a “milestone.”
Participants this week are focusing on the strategic role that sustainable forest management could play in achieving the long-term mitigation of climate change and efforts to combat such environmental problems as desertification, deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
Setting the stage for a panel discussion on the role of forests in today’s changing environment, Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said those environmental problems threatened the existence of forests and the livelihood of billions of people. Deforestation accounted for 35 per cent of carbon emissions in developing countries and 65 per cent in the least developed ones.
According to a report of the Secretary-General, presented by the Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat, the best opportunity for the Forum to contribute to the global climate change agenda appeared to be through the promotion of sustainable forest management, including measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Sustainable management could also contribute to addressing other environmental, social and economic challenges.
In that context, the outcome of the Forum’s negotiations on financing sustainable forest management could contribute substantively to ongoing climate change negotiations.
Several participants in the panel and the ensuing debate on environmental issues recalled that the Bali Plan of Action — adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2007 — noted the importance of forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The fifteenth session of the Conference, to be held later this year in Copenhagen, was expected to reach agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, which would have a long-term impact on forest management and financial flows to forests.
The meeting of the UN Forum on Forests continues through 1 May, 2009.
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