Collaborative Partnership on Forests
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
The Earth Summit 2012 and Forests
The Submission of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests to the
Preparatory Process for Rio+ 20
Forests cover around one third of the Earth?s land surface, and these
ecosystems and their goods and services and related activities contribute to
the objectives of the Earth Summit 2012 in multiple and essential ways. In
the future?with pressures on land to meet increased food production
projected to surge, the climate changing and energy prices rising?forests
are going to be called upon extensively to garner solutions.
However forests offer more than immediate solutions?they provide some of
the most insightful experiences the world has garnered so far as to how to
practically operationalize the concept of sustainable development with
respect to natural resources. Forests provide useful lessons for other sectors
on how to approach 21st century challenges, including taking the aspiration
of the Green Economy from rhetoric to reality.
The conservation and sustainable use of forests has been built from practical
bottom-up experience rather than from conceptual theory. These experiences
demonstrate time and again that the ?so-called? social, economic and
environmental pillars of sustainable development need to be treated as
integral parts of a single system rather than being managed in isolation. In
particular, the history of the conservation and sustainable use of forests
illustrates that while some degree of specialization is possible?for example
a protected area or a commercial forest?there is always a fundamental need
to ensure that society benefits from a balanced supply of social, economic
and environmental values.
In order to achieve such a balance, sustainable forest strategies need to be
understood in terms of time and space. With respect to time this requires
robust management and decision-making processes that not only satisfy
societies? current needs but consciously ensure that future options remain
open and are not foreclosed. In terms of space it requires an ability to think,
plan and act at a broader ?landscape level,? making sure that inevitable ?sitelevel? trade-offs do not jeopardize the broader approach. Landscape
approaches facilitate the diversity and resilience of natural systems that true
sustainability is built upon. Consequently there is no single blueprint for
sustainability and no single approach can be relied upon to consistently
deliver sustainable outcomes. Sustainability requires a process of dialogue, 2
negotiations and learning as well as the active participation and involvement
of all the key actors.
Whereas most environmental services provide benefits to a wide range of
society (the benefit of carbon absorption is global), forests provide particular
benefits to an estimated 1.6 billion of the most disadvantaged rural and
drylands populations. The value of direct benefits to them from forests is
estimated at $130 billion per year?a figure that exceeds the totality of
Official Development Assistance; and the global value of the environmental
services provided by forests is still unknown but in the range of trillions of
dollars, plus additional value that is added downstream. Governments and
the private sector have mostly ignored these values.
The critical contributions of forests include:
? Poverty alleviation, MDGs and rural development: Forests are
often one of the few locally available development resources; and they
already provide a large proportion of rural income, GDP, food,
medicine and cultural identity.
? Climate change mitigation and adaptation: Forests provide
opportunities for ecosystem-based adaptation, to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, to sequester
additional carbon through forest restoration, and to capture social and
environmental co-benefits?on a large scale.
? Food security and agriculture including livestock: New data shows
that 25% to 30% of rural household income and food comes from off-farm resources, with forests providing a major share. A large
proportion of forests? bounty provides nutritionally balanced wild
protein, carbohydrates and vegetables to rural families. Forests also
reduce soil erosion, optimize water supplies, filter and clean water,
store water, and anchor an overall ecosystem that balances moisture,
mitigating the severity of drought and water scarcity, as well as
providing fodder for cattle during dry periods. Intensification of
agriculture is a major opportunity not only to address the growing
demand for food in developing countries but also for reducing and
even reversing deforestation. Tenure reforms, capacity building and
political priorities for agriculture are crucial.
? Land use and land restoration: Forests and tree cover stabilize soils,
reduce water and wind erosion and enhance soil productivity. They
are key to maintaining land productivity and restoring degraded lands. 3
Globally, over 2 billion hectares offer opportunities for such
restoration, mostly in the tropical and temperate areas. About 50% of
these are in degraded lands?equivalent to over 900 million hectares.
The goods and services provided by drylands forests support
livelihoods and contribute to poverty eradication and increased food
security, targeting the poorest and most vulnerable groups,
particularly women and children.
? Biodiversity conservation: A rich diversity of species can be
conserved while livelihoods are sustained and improved. Maintaining
and enhancing biodiversity in forest (production) systems and forest
landscapes also contributes to their health and resilience, in addition
to offering diversification of income possibilities. The value of
healthy and functional natural and semi-natural forests for providing a
wide range of ecosystem services to local communities, and also to
societies globally, is increasingly recognized; and 'payment for
ecosystem service' schemes are beginning to emerge. Forest
conservation aims have been instrumental for developing these
payment schemes, whether for water purification and storage, for
storage of carbon, or for other ecosystem services. The most important
contribution to biodiversity conservation is halting deforestation.
? Renewable raw material, bioenergy supply and green growth:
Forests provide multiple renewable resources and can satisfy the
needs of growing and changing markets for food, feed, fiber, fuel,
shelter, and bio-based products originating from renewable resources
and ecosystem services. Wood has a high additional potential to
contribute to climate change mitigation by substituting materials and
energy from non-renewable sources. Forest industries are expected to
contribute very significantly to green growth jobs in forest rich
countries; and the net benefits of halving deforestation could amount
to $3.7 trillion over the long term.
? Energy security: Forests and trees are the most important source of
renewable energy in the world, particularly in Africa, providing about
80% of the total primary energy supply of the continent. Globally,
more than two billion people depend on fuel wood in rural settings
and charcoal in urban areas for cooking and heating, and wood energy
is often the only domestically available and affordable source of
energy. Energy from forests is equivalent to about 20% of global
crude oil production.
? Trade: Trade in forest products was worth over $200 billion in 2010,
plus a value of additional non-timber forest products that is more
difficult to quantify. Concerns about trade in forest products led to
initiatives to ascertain the environmental and social impacts of trade.
Getting government, industry and community support for approaches
to addressing these concerns has taken the many years since Rio?but
forest certification of sustainability and legality have become market
instruments that have a major impact in both producer and consumer
Forest ecosystems can play a central role in contributing to a green economy
while their management can also benefit from a green economy.
Furthermore, institutional frameworks provide a foundation for the
contributions by forest ecosystems to sustainable development. A focused
action agenda can deliver the benefits of sustainable development from
forests and for forests. These action items include:
? Make development and management of forests and biodiversity a
focus of poverty alleviation and the transition to a green economy.
? Cultivate the full range of climate benefits offered by forests,
which include adaptation and carbon absorption and storage
services, while recognizing that the values of forests are not
limited to climate services.
? Bring the green value chain of forests and forest products to the
service of sustainable development, including the value of
recycling of fiber, the storage of carbon in housing and furniture,
and a wide range of bio-products and ecosystem services.
? Manage forests to meet increasing demand for ecosystem goods
and services including food, raw materials and renewable energy.
? Invest in a realistic target of restoring 150 million hectares of
degraded lands by 2020 and thereafter focus on additional areas of
the 2 billion hectares available for restoration globally (three
quarters of which will be mosaic-based restoration and one quarter
will be classic, wide-scale restoration).
? Commit to sustainable development goals on land use that will
lead to a land-degradation neutral world with targets to achieve a
zero net land degradation whereby the amount of land degraded 5
each year is offset by reclaiming and improving an equivalent
amount of land.
? Invest in the dissemination and scaling up of sustainable land
management techniques that promote forest growth, particularly
agroforestry and evergreen agriculture, to capture multiple benefits
for farmers including the ability to draw nitrogen from the air for
fertilizer and provide fruits, medicines, livestock fodder, timber
and fuelwood, shelter, erosion control, watershed protection,
conservation of biodiversity, greater resilience to climate change,
and carbon storage and accumulation.
? Assign a greater role in forest management to women, whose
involvement has been shown to improve the condition and
sustainability of forests.
? Invest in research and data collection on the full suite of forest
ecosystem goods and services, particularly research on critical
tipping points and thresholds.
Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
? Engage in capacity building for forest management, education, and
? Optimize land use by understanding and resolving conflicting
cross-sectoral land use policies and mainstreaming sustainable land
? Promote land planning at the landscape scale?using different
decision making structures for local, regional, and international
governance?to optimize the delivery of forest ecosystem goods
and services from sustainably managed forests.
? Advance the establishment of a strong and effective science-policy
interface in support of land restoration and sustainable land
? Facilitate the establishment of compensation for ecosystem
services schemes to create incentives for sustainable use and
investments in the management of forests.
? Devolve forest management rights to local communities that know
their forests?and that have a vested interest in the decisions being
? Adopt coordinated and coherent polices and financing to address
desertification and land degradation, climate change, biodiversity
loss, poverty, water scarcity, food production, and food insecurity,
by strengthening relationships among sectors and institutions.
? Minimize conflicting policies and measures by facilitating crosssectoral and cross-institutional communication and understanding,
notably with the agriculture, energy and trade sectors.
? ?Green? the value chain between producers and consumers by
promoting demand for legal and sustainable products and building
capacities for good governance and law enforcement.
The transition to a global sustainable future is particularly important for
forests. The action agenda above offers pathways for sustainable
development and a green economy in which forests both contribute and
benefit. Forests have much to offer to other sectors in the practice of
sustainable development but they also need enabling policies that allow
them to perform to their full potential. By adopting balanced policies and
financing for effective institutional frameworks, we can support governance
structures that will capture the multiple benefits of forests for sustainable
A future that does not incorporate forests and their essential values and
services as key elements in a green economy would miss unique
opportunities. Forests already offer a range of tested solutions to key topics
in sustainable development such as climate change, biodiversity, livelihoods,
soil and water, and could contribute in many ways to a green economy. A
sustainable future in which forests play a central role would also empower
some of the most disadvantaged people in society and facilitate their
contribution to global sustainable development.