As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for more than just the trees.
March 18th, 2013
by Ruth Nogueron, via WRIInsights
As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for
more than just the trees. While an estimated 500 million people depend directly
on forests for their livelihoods, the entire world depends on them for
food, water, clean air, and vital medicines. Forests also absorb carbon
dioxide, making them critical to curbing climate change.
Despite some encouraging anti-deforestation efforts in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa,
globally, forests are under threat, particularly in the tropics.
Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13 million hectares of forests were lost every year. About 30 percent of the global forest cover has been completely cleared, and 20 percent has been degraded.
This dilemma begs the question: What is the outlook for forests in 2030?
Are we missing the opportunity to preserve forests and ensure they
continue to deliver the goods and services we need for a growing global
population? How can we use forests to build a thriving global green
Asking these questions is important. Finding answers to the challenges they raise is imperative.
5 Lessons from the World Forest Summit
On March 5-6, I attended the World Forest Summit, run by The Economist
magazine. At the event, leaders from the private sector, research
organizations, NGOs, and government considered these questions and
identified common ground to preserve and support forests worldwide. The
discussion highlighted five lessons that are critical for properly
managing and protecting global forests.
1) Understand the Value of Forests
At the heart of the deforestation problem lies the fact that forests
are often seen only for their immediate market value. There is a failure
to recognize the wealth of services they provide at no costfrom carbon
sequestration and water filtering
to food and recreation. However, deriving economic value for forest
services is not easy, as it requires fundamentally changing how we
incorporate ecosystem services
into the current economic model. Markets for ecosystem services have
emerged over the past decade, but growth has been slow. We must find
ways to better communicate the economic value of our forests. In the
meantime, we can focus on global commodities and the actors that cause deforestation and degradation through their supply chains.
2) Manage Forests for the People and with the People
Even if forests are managed to maximize their long-term economic value, how do we make sure forest-dependent communities
receive the benefits? We must recognize the rights of local communities
and indigenous peoples and involve them in the decision-making
processes that affect the forests they directly depend on for their
livelihoods. These groups have a close relationship with forests and can
be effective leaders in forest conservation. For example, some
communities in Latin America are actively monitoring their forests and halting illegal logging.
3) Halt the Illegal Timber Trade
The forest industry can and should be part of the deforestation
solution. Demand for sustainably produced forest products will create an
incentive to properly manage forests and preserve forested lands.
Stronger legal frameworks in the forest sector are a good first step,
and an increased demand for legal forest products in the global
marketplaceas illustrated by the amendment of the U.S. Lacey Act and the passage of the European Timber Regulationis a positive development. However, enforcement of these regulations is critical.
Its important to minimize the transactional cost for companies who
play by the rules and ease the confusion brought by many legality
4) Find Opportunities in Restoration
Forest restoration offers tremendous opportunities to counteract deforestation and generate additional benefits. As much as 1 billion hectares
of cleared and degraded forests can be restored back to forests and
other productive landscapes like forest plantations or agroforestry
systems. Forest restoration efforts can be carried out with and for
local people while delivering economic and social benefits. For example,
the African Re-greening Initiative work with an increasing number of farmers in Africa to protect and manage natural regeneration of trees to build agroforestry systems.
5) Develop New Partnerships for Forests
New alliances with actors inside and outside the forest sector will
be needed to successfully preserve forests, as the main drivers of
deforestation lie outside the forests in many cases. The forest
products, agricultural, mining, infrastructure, pharmaceutical, and
financial industries, along with civil society organizations and
governments, all depend on forests and thus, have a role to play.
Inspiring examples of this multi-stakeholder approach are emerging, such
as the Canadian Boreal Forest Initiative (a collaboration between NGOs and forest industries) and from the Consumer Goods Forums pledge to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.
How forest stakeholders respond to these five issues will play a big
role in shaping the future of forests. As His Royal Highness Prince
Charles said in his videotaped remarks
at the conference, Put simply, and whether we like it or not, forests
matter, deeply. In fact, we would be doomed without them. It is now up
to all of us to articulate the importance of forests, push and expand
the approaches that are working, and forge creative alliances to ensure
that forests are sustained for current and future generations.