Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rio+20 Briefing #2: Forests and the green economy (by ICTSD, July 2011)

Forests naturally embody the ideal characteristics of a green economy: low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. They also offer exceptional opportunities for green employment with jobs that can reduce consumption of energy and raw materials, avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and minimise waste and pollution while protecting and restoring ecosystems. In order to be brought to fruition, these natural characteristics of forests require proper governance.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) will have the opportunity to draft a framework of forest governance schemes with the context of the global initiative to transition to a green economy. Products and services from forests not only constitute a significant portion of the global economy but they are also tools that can instigate sustainable development within the context of a green economy. Forest management, meanwhile, adds to production and services by bolstering the green job market. Reports produced by UNEP, UNECE - in cooperation with the FAO, and the Pardee Center all make the case that forests must play a major role in transitioning to a more sustainable economic system.

Mounting pressures on forests

World forest cover continues to shrink by 13 million hectares a year. With the world’s population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050 and consumption per capita on the rise, the pressure to tear down forests for urban construction and agricultural use will undoubtedly intensify. The competition in developing countries over use of agricultural land for food production or for biofuel cultivation will put forests at even greater risk. Coupled with the destructive effects of climate change on land, such as desertification in Africa and land erosion in costal nations, forests worldwide are increasingly under threat. The global economic downturn, multiple financial crises, and competition over use of dwindling natural resources are also major factors accelerating deforestation.

The fact that forests are influenced by everything from population and development to climate change and economics, is evidence of how interweaved forests are into the web of global society. Therefore, if forests can be impacted by various factors occurring in the world today, one can imply that the reverse is also true.

UNEP, in their Green Economy Report, advocate for the international community to take on a role that strengthens forest-related governance by creating, implementing, and supporting transparency mechanisms. According the report, the best opportunity the international community has to both address poor forest management and to raise funds to protect forests is by passing the enhanced UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme. The REDD+ scheme would offer monetary and competitiveness incentives for actors in the forestry sector to embrace a paradigm shift to a more sustainable forest value chain, the UNEP report finds.

But some critics argue that a “greening” of the forestry sector is inherently impossible because products produced from forests automatically represent ecological damage to the forest itself. This argument hinges on the concept that standing forests could never be properly assessed for their value to society. But stakeholder consultations have already led to a better realisation of the private and social benefits of forests, according to UNEP.

Read this full article from The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

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