Remarks at the Inaugural Ceremony for the International Day Of Forests
Your Excellency, Minister Zhao Shucong of the State Forestry Administration,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour to be here with all of you, in Beijing, to celebrate the International Day of Forests.
As you recall, last December, the United Nations General Assembly declared 21 of March to be the International Day of Forests. The Assembly invited all Member States to devote the International Day to presenting and promoting concrete activities with regard to all types of forests and trees outside of forests.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the State Forestry Administration for inviting me to launch this important international event.
This global celebration is a welcomed recognition of the importance of forests in different aspects of our lives.
The International Day builds on the success of the 2011 International Year of Forests, and provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside of forests.
I am gratified to note that China is observing the International Day with concrete actions, just as China had successfully launched a number of initiatives during the 2011 International Year of Forests.
While most of the world is facing the challenge of deforestation, China stands out in its success in reversing the trend.
In fact, China’s reforestation achievement is one of the few success stories in the world today. It is a success story of government leadership, of long-term commitment by all relevant stakeholders, and of local ownership and participation.
Speaking in Stockholm last April, the Chinese Premier pointed out that China has carried out afforestation for decades, with coverage now reaching 620,000 square kilometres. He stressed that China.fed one fifth of the global population with less than 10% of the world’s farmland, and only 28% of the world’s per capita water resources.
He further pointed out China’s belief that a commitment, once made, must be honoured. In the past 40 years, with rich practices in promoting sustainable development, China has honoured its commitment, both to its own people and to the international community.
And that is why I am so pleased to launch the inaugural ceremony for this important international occasion.
In today’s launch, I witness once again the vision for sustainable forestry, and the commitment to action by the State Forestry Administration. I see broad participation of local governments and the people, as well as investments in technological innovation.
By investing in forestry, you are making a long-term investment for the current and future generations.
As you know, forests are a significant contributor to China’s rapidly growing economy. The aggregate trade value of forest products is approximately US$28 billion.
Globally, the formal forestry sector’s contribution to global GDP is approximately $468 billion. I might add that this data includes only the forestry sector activities from wood processing, and pulp and paper. Many other non-wood forest products are not included in these economic figures.
In fact, close to 1.6 billion people depend, to varying extent, on forests for income generation. Forests provide direct livelihoods to hundreds of millions of people living in or near forested areas.
In addition, forest industries provide employment opportunities for nearly 100 million people.
It is important to note that forests not only contribute to China’s economy and to the world economy, but also provide tremendous environmental and social benefits to our society.
I want to take a moment to emphasize the need for sustainable forest management when we discuss policies and strategies to tackle forest issues.
What forests give us is so much more than timber, bamboo and these material products.
Besides the visible cash value, the invisible social, livelihood and environmental dimensions of forests and trees are equally important.
Forests protect our watershed, converse water, reduce flooding. They purify the air we breathe, and as carbon sink, help fight climate change.
They protect the soil we live on and foster food security and sustainable agriculture.
They provide the habitat for biodiversity – where pandas call home.
In many countries forests remain the main energy source for rural households.
They give us the medicines that we have relied on for thousands of years.
They are spiritual sanctuary to many of us.
Undoubtedly, forests are inextricably linked to our social and economic value, to our bonds with nature and the health of ecosystems. Hence, we cannot think of them in isolation.
It is up to us to make these connections and establish the policies, laws and institutions required.
It is up to us to implement sustainable forest management.
Indeed, the United Nations Forum on Forests has been advocating this integrated approach to sustainable forest management since its establishment.
UNFF is the world’s only intergovernmental body tackling forests issues – which includes all types of forests and trees outside of forests.
Given China’s success in its reforestation efforts, we are pleased that China will be taking a prominent leadership role at the upcoming 10th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, which will take place in two weeks (8 to 19 April), in Istanbul, Turkey.
The theme of this upcoming session is Forests and Economic Development.
UNFF10 is an important meeting that will determine the actions needed to enhance forests’ contributions to economic development.
I know the Chinese Government is sending a senior delegation there and I look forward to seeing China playing an active part in the UNFF10 process, and achieving successful outcomes for forests.
Let me conclude by thanking again our host, the State Forestry Administration. In celebrating this International Day, we are planting the seed, so to speak, for a greener and more sustainable future – a future we all want.
I am proud of your hard work and success. China’s experience can serve as an example and inspiration for many others. I look forward to seeing more success stories like this around the world.
Thank you very much.