Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you to the launch of UN DESA’s inaugural Global Forest Goals Report 2021.
Four years ago, the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030, was created. Its mission was to promote sustainable forest management and enhance the contribution of forests and trees to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Strategic Plan encompasses six voluntary and universal Global Forest Goals, and 26 associated targets.
Its adoption was a historic moment for the United Nations Forum on Forests. It demonstrated the political will and ambition of the forest community to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The Plan recognized – that to create a world in which forests could provide economic, social, environmental, and cultural benefits for all – we would, first and foremost, need more forests. Accordingly, the first Global Forest Goal set a target for increasing forest area by 3 percent, or 120 million hectares, by 2030. This is an area roughly the size of South Africa.
The aim of this inaugural Report is to present an overview of the progress achieved thus far, based on available national and global data. The report highlights where actions are being taken, and where gaps and challenges remain. It also includes success stories that showcase best practices in sustainable forest management.
When forests are healthy and well managed, they play a crucial role in:
- eradicating poverty,
- combatting climate change,
- conserving biodiversity,
- protecting watersheds, and
- building food and energy security.
Forests support the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable segments of our society, especially the rural poor and indigenous peoples.
And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the forest sector has provided us with essential health products, including masks, cleaning supplies, and ethanol for sanitizers. Forests can also provide a natural buffer against the transmission of zoonoses.
As we work towards building resilience and reducing the risk of future pandemics, forests play a critical role. Indeed, investing in forests is an investment in a more resilient future.
Yet, as much as forests offer us, they also continue to be under threat. Every year, seven million hectares of natural forests are converted to other land uses, such as large-scale commercial agriculture and other economic activities. Although the global rate of deforestation has slowed over the past decade – due to efforts by countries – we continue to lose forests in the tropics – largely due to human and natural causes.
Moreover, we are seeing indications that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating challenges already faced by countries in managing their forests.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has been a harsh wake-up call. But we have a unique opportunity in our collective recognition of the solutions that forests hold, to many of our global problems, including:
- combatting climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss, and
- building resilience against future crises.
The Global Forest Goals Report gives us a snapshot of the many actions being taken for forests. We must now accelerate these efforts to meet our deadline of 2030.
I hope that this report will serve as inspiration for renewed commitment and action at all levels.
I thank you