– UNEP Report
Investing an additional US$40 billion a year in the forestry sector could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050, and catalyze the creation of millions of new jobs, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Backed by the right kinds of enabling policies, such an investment – equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is spent on the sector today – could also sequester or remove an extra 28 per cent of carbon from the atmosphere, thus playing a key role in combating climate change.
On Sunday last, World Environment Day (WED) was observed under the theme “Forests: Nature at Your Service,” which underscores the multitude of benefits that forests provide to humanity.
WED 2011 also comes during the UN-declared International Year of the Forests, which is in part focused on the critical links between forests and the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy.
“WED 2011 comes precisely 12 months before the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil next year where the world will come together to try and forge a new and more decisive response to the sustainable development challenge of the 21st century,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.
“The Green Economy initiative has identified forestry as one of the ten central sectors capable of propelling a transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient, employment-generating future if backed by investment and forward-looking policies,” he added.
“There are already many encouraging signals; the annual net forest loss since 1990 has fallen from around eight million to around five million hectares and in some regions such as Asia, the Caribbean and Europe forest area has actually increased over those 20 years,” said Mr. Steiner.
The report also spotlights how the area of planted forests, including those as part of agroforestry schemes on farms and plantations, have grown from 3.6 million hectares in 1990 to just under five million hectares in 2010.
Groups like WWF are cataloguing information and experience in respect to plantations to maximize biodiversity and ecosystem services.
It shows in areas such as Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, how more creative tree planting can assist in providing buffer zones around intact forests, allowing regeneration and recovery.
“There is also an increasing engagement from the private sector in these nature-based assets and mobilization by cities and communities across the globe in tree-planting efforts. Meanwhile, new kinds of smart market mechanisms, ranging from REDD+ to payments for ecosystem services, are emerging,” he added.
“WED is a day for everyone to act in support of forests and to nurture these green shoots of a Green Economy as the world looks towards how best to accelerate, scale-up and above all implement these transitions in Rio in 2012,” he said.
The report spotlights other ways in which governments are using forward-looking policies nationally that can also catalyze market-based instruments, such as credit, microfinance, leases and certification schemes.
For example, the host of this year’s World Environment Day festivities, India, has recently approved a national initiative to increase forest cover over five million hectares, improve quality of forest cover over another five million hectares and improve crucial ecosystem services provided by forests, such as hydrological services. The new Green India Plan aims to increase forest-based incomes for three million households.
Over 80 per cent of the US$8 billion National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which underwrites at least 100 days of paid work for rural households in India, is invested in water conservation, irrigation and land development. This has generated three billion working days-worth of employment, benefiting close to 60 million households.
Globally, to undertake a green transition, an additional average investment of US$40 billion per year or around 0.034 per cent of global GDP – in the forest sector is required, starting with US$15 billion in 2011 and increasing up to approximately US$57 billion by 2050.
Carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25 million today to 30 million by 2050.
The report said that the public and the private sector both have an important role to play in accelerating the transition to a Green Economy. On the one hand, governments must promote policy and technical support to ensure forest-based investments.
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