Opening Remarks Webinar “Forests: at the heart of a green recovery from COVID-19”

Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome you all to this webinar.

On the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and to contribute to the forthcoming Biodiversity Summit on Wednesday, DESA is very honoured to convene this webinar on Forests. I thank the President of ECOSOC, the Chair of UNFF 16/17, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility and the Chair of Collaborative Partnership on Forests, for their generosity in joining this event and sharing their remarks.

This webinar is intended to address the issue of on forests and their vital role in a green recovery from the COIVD-19 pandemic.

As we have seen, the economic and social consequences of the pandemic are reaching catastrophic levels. Health systems and societies are in crisis, inequalities are on the rise, and the global economy is expected to contract by up to five per cent this year. Over 34 million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. In the worst-case scenario, 160 million more people could continue to face extreme poverty by 2030.

At the same time, we are also seeing that countries that have made progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, are better able to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Countries that have succeeded in:

• providing access to clean water;
• reducing the number of people living in slums; and
• decreasing adverse health conditions, such as non-communicable diseases – have been better prepared to mitigate the COVID-19 risk.

Excellencies,

Without a doubt, the pandemic is a wake-up call. We have a unique opportunity to chart a course for a transformative recovery towards greater sustainability and a greener, more inclusive economy. Indeed, if the aspiration for a green COVID-19 recovery is to materialize, healthy forests must be prioritized.

We are all aware of the importance of forests and trees for our life and health.

Forests provide income and livelihoods for rural populations, particularly for indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities. They provide a natural buffer against the transmission of zoonoses, thus reducing the risk of future pandemics. As an industry, the forestry sector produces essential products and services for public health – from cleaning supplies to personal protective equipment.

Yet, despite their critical importance, forests and other terrestrial ecosystems continue to be under threat. Annually, over seven million hectares of natural forests are converted to other land uses for large-scale commercial agriculture, and other economic activities. And while the rate of deforestation has slowed over the past decade, the tree-cover loss has been rising in the tropics since 2000 – due to human and natural causes.

Forests are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of environmental degradation and ecosystem fragmentation. They are vulnerable to invasive pests, diseases and frequent forest fires – many of which are worsened by climate change. Sustainably managed forests help to build resilient economies capable of withstanding pandemics, while at the same time protecting biodiversity and combatting climate change.

Distinguished Participants,

The global vision and plan of action for forests and people are enshrined in the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030. This is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through its Global Forest Goals and associated targets. To realize this vision, we must accelerate action to:

• tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation;
• strike a balance between economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability; and
• improve governance to deliver a greener future.

To do this, we need to ensure that sustainable forest management strategies are integrated into green recovery and economic stimulus packages. These should build on the inter-linkages between forestry and other sectors – especially health, agriculture, employment and the environment – in order to attract investment in sustainable forest management.

At the same time, we need to support the capacity of countries to mobilize resources and unlock private finance for forests. This can be done through mechanisms such as green bonds, guarantees, and encouraging zero-deforestation commitments.

Implementing the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 means that we must work together to reverse forest loss, increase the world’s forest area by three per cent, and eradicate extreme poverty for forest-dependent people. The Strategic Plan provides a framework for maximizing forest contributions to the SDGs, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

There is already important political will and support for forests, including recognition of their role as nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change. Moving forward, mobilization of expertise, technologies and financial resources remains a key determinant of delivering real change.

Excellencies,

A strengthened multilateral cooperation provides opportunities to build more inclusive societies and ensure our path to sustainable development.

We must accelerate our efforts in this Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.

We must safeguard our forests, our planet, and all its vital ecosystems for generations to come.

I wish this Forests webinar a great success!

Thank you.

File date: 
Monday, September 28, 2020
Author: 

Mr. Liu