Deforestation worldwide is responsible for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with most forest land cleared for agricultural use. Yet when managed effectively, forests are net carbon sinks, able to permanently absorb about one tenth of global carbon dioxide emissions into the biomass, soil, and forest products. Curbing deforestation and reforesting damaged areas is seen as a cost-effective way of mitigating climate change, while enhancing the security of the livelihoods of forest-dependent people.
On 28 April 2007, the UN Forum on Forests – of which DESA is the Secretariat – adopted a landmark international agreement on sustainable forest management. The new instrument sets a standard in forest management that is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, and promote sustainable livelihoods. The Forum will devote its next session, in 2009, to the issue of forests in a changing environment.
Changing weather patterns and deforestation exacerbate drought, desertification and land degradation, especially in dry areas where soils are poor. Reclaiming degraded land, combating soil loss, and restoring vegetation through reforestation can help mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Adopting land use practices such as conservation agriculture also keep large amounts of carbon in the soil. The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, serviced by DESA, will consider land management, agriculture, rural development, drought, desertification, and Africa, in the 2008-2009 review and policy cycle.