Highlights Vol 21, No. 03 - March 2017

International Day highlights forests’ role in sustainable energy

Until the advent of fossil fuels, for thousands of years, wood was the primary source of energy for human populations. Today, over 2 billion people worldwide, in rural and urban areas, still rely on wood for their primary energy needs. Wood constitutes the primary source of energy for cooking and heating in many developing countries, where nearly 90 per cent of fuelwood and charcoal is consumed. 

Regions with the greatest incidence of poverty, most notably Sub-Saharan Africa and low income households in Asia, are also the most dependent on fuel wood. At the same time, the use of unsustainably harvested fuelwood, which often occurs in these areas, continues to be a challenge which has negative economic and environmental impacts.

Developing countries are not the only ones dependent on forests for energy. Bio energy from forest biomass (in various forms, including pellets, sticks and sawdust) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. Countries across Europe are converting their power plants from using only coal to a mix of coal and wood products to meet renewable “carbon neutral” energy goals.

Technological advancements in the production of biomass energy, along with growing concerns over rising greenhouse gas emissions, make it increasingly likely that biomass energy from forest products will continue to serve as an important source of renewable energy in all countries in the future.

In recognition of these important inter-linkages between forests and energy, the central theme of the 2017 International Day of Forests is “Forests and Energy.” The need for sustainable management of forests and sustainable energy resources has also been recognized in SDGs 7 and SDG 15 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The International Day of Forests, observed on 21 March every year, provides a global platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees. The United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat of UN DESA will organize a special event in celebration of the International Day of Forests on 21 March at UN Headquarters in New York, which will highlight how forests and energy are essential for the well-being of local communities and in green infrastructure for economic development.   The event to be held in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 10 am to 1 pm, will also feature remarks by senior UN and government officials, a technical panel discussion as well as a general discussion by UN Member States and UN entities.

The International Day of Forests was established by the UN General Assembly in 2012. Activities held range from scientific conferences and workshops, to art exhibits, tree-planting and community-level events. The theme of the International Day reflects the multi-faceted aspects of forests, highlighting the many ways forests contribute to our daily lives and global sustainability.

For more information: International Day of Forests

Photo credit: UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

Youth show commitment towards SDGs at ECOSOC Youth Forum

Acknowledging that youth play a key role to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations hosted several hundred young leaders at the annual ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York on 30-31 January, to address some of the most pressing issues of our time. For the first time since its inception, the forum also featured a designated SDG Media Zone, a platform for direct interactive discussions between youth activists and development veterans on how to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“It gives me confidence to see such a diverse group of young people coming together to share our common goals,” Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, President of ECOSOC said as he officially opened the forum. “As young people, you bring something essential to the table: new perspectives. And it is through new ideas and policies that we will make progress.”

“Just by being here, you show you care about the issues,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video address. “Poverty. Unemployment. Climate change. Inequality. Injustice. You, your friends and young people around the world are living these realities.”

At the SDG media zone, the discussion centered around a myriad of issues ranging from peace and humanitarian action to sustainable agriculture, health and employment. Trisha Shetty, co-founder of SheSays, an organization aiming to end gender-based discrimination in India remarked that the strength of the SDGs lay in their universality, interdependency and the premise of leaving no one behind. “The issues of hunger, poverty, gender discrimination, are not restricted to specific regions and are not restricted to specific continents,” she said.

The Youth Forum saw the highest number of participants since its creation, with a record number of ministers, government officials, youth delegates and youth representatives from all over the world joining in on the discussions. It underscored the commitment of the international community to learn from young people, and let youth leaders play an active role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It also gave youth activist a platform to indicate for themselves how they see their participation towards a more sustainable world. Kanchan Amatya, founder of the Sustainable Fish Farming Initiative, underscored for example why young people are very much needed to revive the vital but aging agricultural ventures around the world. “If young people are not involved in agriculture now, in 20 years time we will face a very big food insecurity,” she said.

However, despite the clear necessity for young people to be included in development negotiations, there is still a long way to go until young people fully claim their seat at the table.

“I think a lot of the time in conferences, and especially at the UN, we are always like “youth youth youth, you can do it, you are the leaders of today”,” Nicole Perez, of the US Youth Observatory for the UN said. “But I just want to acknowledge: it is not easy.”

Young leaders are more engaged in development issues than ever before, especially through the use of digital platforms and media. United through social media, they have created some of the most powerful movements for change the world has seen in recent decades.

In his closing address, ECOSOC President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava encouraged the young leaders to stay committed to the success of the SDGs as they venture back out into the world: “I would like to call on our young women and men to continue to engage with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said. “Wherever you go, advocate for the SDGs, support their implementation and hold your Governments accountable.”

For more information:

UN Youth Forum 2017

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