Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to address this important event which connects two issues that hold the key to our future sustainability – forests and climate change.
To quote the United Nations Secretary-General – the climate crisis is a “code red for humanity”.
The impacts of climate change are all around us – from rising temperatures to extreme weather events. Our daily news is flooded with stark images of forest fires, floods, droughts, and storms. Pollution levels are worsening, and species extinction is growing.
We must take urgent action to address the climate emergency. Now, more than ever, we need to pool our collective knowledge and experience, and commit to accelerating action.
To this end, we need to advance implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, through forest-based actions. For example:
- When forests are well managed, they offer nature-friendly solutions to most of the global challenges we face – from combatting climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss, to building resilience against future crises.
- When forests are protected, they play a crucial role in eradicating poverty, building food and energy security, and maintaining vital watersheds.
- When forests are valued, they support the livelihoods of the most vulnerable segments of our society.
- When forests are healthy, they work as a natural buffer against the transmission of zoonoses and other diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, forests provided us with essential health products – from masks, to cleaning supplies, and ethanol for sanitizers.
Four years ago, Member States of the United Nations had the foresight to adopt the UN Strategic Plan for Forests, 2030. The Plan was created with a mission to promote sustainable forest management, and enhance the contribution of forests and trees, to:
- the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals,
- the Rio Conventions,
- the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC, and
- other international forest-related instruments and processes.
The Plan recognized that – to create a future in which forests could provide us all their socio-economic, cultural and environmental benefits – we would need more forests.
Accordingly, the first Global Forest Goal set a target for increasing forest area, by 3 per cent, or 120 million hectares—an area roughly the size of South Africa—by 2030.
Earlier this year, at the 16th session of the UN Forum on Forests, UN DESA launched the inaugural Global Forest Goals Report. It presents an overview of the progress achieved to date, based on available national and global data. The report highlights where actions are being taken, and where gaps and challenges remain. It also includes best practices in sustainable forest management.
Given the topic of our event – I would like to focus on Global Forest Goal 1. The Goal aims to reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide, through:
- sustainable forest management, including protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation,
- increase efforts to prevent forest degradation, and
- contribute to the global effort of addressing climate change.
Countries took a wide range of actions in this area. They:
- used existing national forest laws and strategies, as their frameworks for action;
- they built out stakeholder consultations to inform policymaking, and
- they sought to mainstream forestry considerations across other relevant sectors.
Implementation of Global Forest Goal 1, was supported by commitments in sectors other than forestry, including climate change, biodiversity, and wildlife trade.
Key findings of the Report under this Goal, showed that:
- Asia, Europe, and Oceania appear to be on track to increase their forest area by three percent, between 2015 and 2030. Whereas Africa and South America experienced a loss of forest area, albeit at a slower rate than before.
- Forest carbon action was integrated into broader climate action, and the world as a whole is on track to maintain its forest carbon stocks. However, carbon stock decreased in Africa and South America, due to deforestation.
- Strengthening forest resilience and adaptive capacity of forests, remain an important priority for countries. But there is insufficient data to determine progress towards this target.
The Global Forest Goals Report 2021 gives us a snapshot of such actions. But if we intend to meet our deadline of 2030, we must amplify and accelerate these efforts. I hope that the report will serve as inspiration for renewed commitment and action for forests, at all levels.
Further, we hope that the Forum, in advancing implementation of its monitoring function, will continue to produce such global assessments on the progress towards the Global Forest Goals.
The climate crisis is a planetary emergency. To go from code red to code green -- we must strengthen our efforts to protect and restore forests. We must support the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Only then can we realize our shared vision for a more just, equitable, sustainable and climate-friendly world.
I thank you.