Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on the International Day of Forests, to be observed on 21 March:
The International Day of Forests is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests. Some 1.6 billion people — including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures — depend on forests for food, fuel, shelter and income. Three quarters of fresh water comes from forested catchments. Forests prevent landslides and erosion and — in the case of mangrove forests — reduce loss of life and damage caused by tsunamis.
For these reasons and more, forests are integral to the post-2015 development agenda. Among their most important functions is their role in building climate-resilient societies. That is why, in this year of action for sustainable development, climate change is the theme for the International Day of Forests.
Sustaining healthy forests and mitigating and adapting to climate change are two sides of the same coin. Forests are the largest storehouses of carbon after oceans. The carbon they store in their biomass, soils and products is equivalent to about 10 per cent of carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century. At the same time, deforestation and land-use changes account for 17 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.
Forests are on the front lines of climate change. These ecosystems, rich with biodiversity, are increasingly vulnerable to changes in weather, temperature and rainfall patterns. It is essential, therefore, that we work to preserve and sustainably manage our forests.
Despite the ecological, economic and social value of forests, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate — some 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. This is not sustainable for people or the planet. However, there are some encouraging signs. In the past decade, the rate of global deforestation has decreased by almost 20 per cent, which indicates that solutions exist to reverse this destructive trend.
To build a sustainable, climate-resilient future for all, we must invest in our world's forests. That will take political commitment at the highest levels, smart policies, effective law enforcement, innovative partnerships and funding. On this International Day of Forests, let us commit to reducing deforestation, sustaining healthy forests and creating a climate-resilient future for all.