[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] K [/yt_dropcap]ick-starting action on the recently-adopted Global Forest Goals to protect, sustainably manage and increase world’s forest area will be a key focus for delegations gathered in New York for the twelfth session of the UN Forum on Forests, which opened today at United Nations Headquarters.
The six forest goals and 26 associated targets, all to be achieved by 2030, the deadline set by UN Member States for the universal attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDSs), were adopted late last week by the UN General Assembly as part of the UN Strategic Plan for Forest 2017-2030, which includes a landmark target to expand the world’s forests by three per cent – an area of 120 million hectares, by 2030.
“Let us make no mistake on this matter – the health of the world’s forests is fundamental to humanity’s place on this planet,” said Assembly President Peter Thomson at the opening of the Forum’s current session, emphasizing that forests were home to 80 per cent of the Earth’s land-based animal, plant and insect species.
Together, they regulate climate, prevent land degradation, reduce the risk of floods, landslides and avalanches, and protect people from droughts and dust storms. Forests also played a critical role in staving off the worst impacts of climate change, serving as the world’s second-largest storehouse of carbon, he said. Indeed, the world’s tropical forests alone retained a quarter trillion tons of carbon in biomass.
“If we are to succeed in the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the protection and sustainable management of our forests will be fundamental to the security of humanity’s place upon this planet,” Mr. Thomson said, adding that the Assembly’s decision to adopt the first-ever strategic plan was “a critical one.”
Forests presently cover 30 per cent of the Earth’s land area, or nearly four billion hectares. Sustainably managed forests are healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which provide vital goods and ecosystem services to people worldwide. An estimated 25 per cent of the global population depends on forests for their subsistence, livelihood, employment and income.
The UN forests plan provides a global framework for actions to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests and halt deforestation and forest degradation.
The goals cover a wide range of issues including increasing forest area and combating climate change, reducing poverty and increasing forest protected areas, mobilizing financing and inspiring innovation, promoting governance and enhancing cooperation across sectors and stakeholders.
In his opening remarks, Peter Besseau, of Canada, Chair of the twelfth session of the Forum on Forests, said the landmark global action plan translated the aspirations of the International Arrangement on Forest into an actionable plan to guide the Forums’ work for the next 13 years. “The Global Forest Goals reflect the way the Forum is transforming its work to more effectively address the challenges facing forests and the lives of the people who depend on them.”
He urged all countries and stakeholders to tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation; balance economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability; and improve governance in order to integrate forest issues, as per the guidance from the Quadrennial Programme of Work.
As a unique universal body on forests, the UN Forum has an important role to play in implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo told the Forum today.
He noted that “the new method of work of the Forum, provides an excellent opportunity for the body to address the links between forests and the SDGs, as well as capacity building, financing, technology development and transfer, governance, and science-policy interface, in a holistic and coherent manner.”
The six goals not only contribute to progress on the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, but also address the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and other international forest-related commitments and goals.
“To create a better, greener future, we need the right enabling environment – from governance systems that combat illegal deforestation, to policies that ensure equitable sharing of benefits from forests” stressed the Director of UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, Manoel Sobral Filho.
“When sustainably managed, forests provide essential goods and services worldwide,” said Mr. Sobral Filho, adding that for millions of people living in poverty, “forests serve as safety nets in crises and often provide pathways out of poverty.”
Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world
Discussions at the Forum will take into account the 2017 theme of the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world and the SDGs under in-depth review by the HLPF this year.
The Forest Forum will also discuss issues related to sustainable forest management and strategies to promote implementation of the UN forest action plan.
The six Global Forest Goals
The forest-related goals proposed by the UN Forum on Forests and adopted by the UN General Assembly are:
- Global Forest Goal 1 – Reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management, including protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation, and increase efforts to prevent forest degradation and contribute to the global effort of addressing climate change.
- Global Forest Goal 2 – Enhance forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, including by improving the livelihoods of forest dependent people.
- Global Forest Goal 3 – Increase significantly the area of protected forests worldwide and other areas of sustainably managed forests, as well as the proportion of forest products from sustainably managed forests.
- Global Forest Goal 4 – Mobilize significantly increased, new and additional financial resources from all sources for the implementation of sustainable forest management and strengthen scientific and technical cooperation and partnerships.
- Global Forest Goal 5 – Promote governance frameworks to implement sustainable forest management, including through the UN Forest Instrument, and enhance the contribution of forests to the 2030 Agenda.
- Global Forest Goal 6 – Enhance cooperation, coordination, coherence and synergies on forest-related issues at all levels, including within the UN System and across Collaborative Partnership on Forests member organizations, as well as across sectors and relevant stakeholders.
Forecasting for Resilience: Central Asia Strengthens Climate and Weather Services
Extreme weather risk is rampant across Central Asia. In Tajikistan, as much as 36 percent of the country’s territory is under threat from landslides. In the Kyrgyz Republic, avalanches pose a growing threat to communities, with more than 330 recorded avalanches occurring between 1990 and 2009. In remote areas, the threats from mountain hazards are exacerbated by existing conditions of poverty, insufficient infrastructure, and poor resources.
The region, which ranks among the most climate vulnerable areas of Europe and Central Asia, is also expected to experience significant temperature increases in the coming decades. Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan, is likely to be a future hotspot of heat stress for wheat, a major crop in the area. In some parts of Tajikistan, agricultural yields could drop by as much as 30 percent by the turn of the century.
Moreover, average temperatures in the Central Asia region could rise by up to 6 degrees Celsius in the coming decades, leading to the disappearance of more than one-third of the glaciers from mountains by 2050. This would place nearby communities at greater risk from glacial outburst flooding, potentially rolling back hard-won development gains.
Given that hydrological and meteorological (or “hydromet”) hazards are responsible for 90 percent of total disaster losses worldwide, reliable and accurate weather information services are essential. Forecasting and long-term climate information, for example, could help make communities safer by enabling early warning systems, improving emergency response services, and identifying important investments in resilient infrastructure.
However, the capacity for hydromet services needs to be improved throughout the region. While countries like Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic have made tremendous strides in reducing poverty – from 80 percent a few decades ago to below 40 percent today – the challenges of a changing climate threaten to push at-risk communities back into poverty, unless targeted investments in resilience are made.
To help countries adapt to a riskier future, the World Bank’s Central Asia Hydrometeorology Modernization Project (CAHMP) is bolstering weather forecasting and early warning efforts in the region. Funded by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), this $28 million investment focuses on strengthening hydrometeorological services and generating further weather- and climate-related risk information that the region is lacking.
The project provided cutting-edge technical equipment – such as modern workstations, automated observation networks, access to satellite data, and numerical weather prediction – coupled with specialized trainings for participating agencies. These improvements have boosted forecast accuracy in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan by 20 to 30 percent.
Overall, CAHMP rehabilitated and automated 33 meteorological stations and 3 hydrological stations in the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as 54 meteorological and 16 hydrological stations in Tajikistan. These efforts have helped dramatically improve the countries’ capacity to monitor in real-time important data such as precipitation, temperature, wind, pressure, humidity, and river flow.
Better access to important data on weather extremes, rainfall, river flows, and long-term climate trends will also help boost agricultural production, facilitate evacuations, or strengthen infrastructure throughout the region. This is especially important in Central Asia, where up to 30 percent of the workforce finds employment in the agricultural industry.
Another important industry that benefits from improved hydromet services is hydropower, which is a growing source of reliable, clean energy for countries. Benefits like these are being facilitated by direct relationships with end users, such as agricultural workers, emergency service personnel, government agencies, and others.
Implementing this vision required multiple robust partnerships, including GFDRR, the World Bank, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Each partner provided specific expertise and resources (e.g. financing, technology, assessment, etc.) to help strengthen and streamline a region-wide strategy for boosting hydromet services.
Improving weather information through initiatives such as CAHMP delivers some of the highest cost-benefit ratios of any type of disaster risk management effort. In fact, every $1 invested in weather and climate services delivers at least $3 in socioeconomic benefits.
Globally, more than 100 countries are in need of critical modernization efforts for hydromet services. This global challenge requires international investment of at least $1.5 billion, with an additional $300-400 million per year required to support the proper operation of modernized systems.
As international partners observe World Meteorological Day this Friday, March 23, 2018, efforts like these will help illuminate a path towards a future that is “weather-ready and climate-smart.” For Central Asia, now is the time to take advantage of improved weather, water, and climate data to not only anticipate extreme weather events, but also to inform sustainable development.
Report: Drought and conflict leave millions more hungry in 2017
Driven largely by climate disasters and conflict, levels of acute hunger surged in 2017, leaving some 124 million people across 51 countries facing hunger crises –11 million more than the previous year, according to a new United Nations report.
“Reports such as this give us the vital data and analysis to better understand the challenge. It is now up to us to take action to meet the needs of those facing the daily scourge of hunger and to tackle its root causes,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message on the report.
Presented by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union at a briefing Thursday, the Global Report on Food Crises finds that food emergencies are increasingly determined by complex causes such as conflict, extreme climatic shocks and high prices of staple food – often acting at the same time.
“We must acknowledge and address the link between hunger and conflict if we are to achieve zero hunger,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.
The report points out that conflict continued to be the main driver of acute food insecurity in 18 countries – 15 in Africa or the Middle East – accounting for 60 per cent of the global total.
The increase is largely attributable to new or intensified conflict and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen.
“The fighting must stop now and the world must come together to avert these crises often happening right in front of our eyes,” underscored David Beasley, WFP Executive Director.
Mr. da Silva stated: “Investing in food security and livelihood in conflict situations saves lives, strengthens resilience and can also contribute to sustaining peace.”
The report finds that food crises are increasingly determined by other complex causes as well, such as extreme climatic shocks and high prices of staple food – often acting at the same time.
For instance, prolonged drought conditions resulted in consecutive poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in eastern and southern Africa.
“The consequences of conflict and climate change are stark: millions of more people severely, even desperately, hungry,” maintained Mr. Beasley.
The report also flags that entire communities and more children and women are in need of nutritional support compared to last year, indicating the need for long-lasting solutions to revert the trend.
Moreover, it highlights the urgent need for simultaneous action to save lives, livelihoods and to address the root causes of food crises.
The report, which brings together regional and national data and analysis from multiple sources, demonstrates that in addition to critically needed humanitarian aid, development action needs to engage much earlier so as to tackle the root causes of extreme vulnerability, therefore, building resilience.
“This Global Report on Food Crises shows the magnitude of today’s crises but also shows us that if we bring together political will and today’s technology, we can have a world that’s more peaceful, more stable and where hunger becomes a thing of the past,” Mr. Beasley concluded.
Maps with interactive data from the report can be found here.
Teaching youth to plant for the planet and change the world from the heart of Europe
A project run from a remote and beautiful part of the German countryside is transforming young people into climate scouts with a powerful message to share.
The Sustainability Guides and Climate Scouts project is run from the International Meeting Centre, St. Marienthal in Ostritz in the Free State of Saxony near the border with Poland.
Established in 1992, the centre conducts around 60 Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) events for more than 2,500 families, youths, adults and experts each year.
The guides and scouts project started in 1998 and welcomes groups of students for intensive courses that combine study with practical outdoor activities, and make good use of its forest experience trail and nature protection station.
Over 1,100 youth have taken part so far including 680 learning-disabled and socially disadvantaged young people who traditionally have very little access to ESD. Its geographical location means it is perfectly placed to bring together students from Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. And a new model project is currently underway which opens the door to ESD for refugees as well.
One of the most exciting aspects of the project is the Plant for the Planet scheme where children have planted around 34 hectares of forest and undertaken more than 30 small-scale energy and water conservation initiatives.
Project Manager Georg Salditt said: “Our message is really twofold: we are teaching peace and the environment. We are well placed at the very heart of Europe to bring young people together who may not normally have met and to demonstrate to them that we are all human beings and we must respect each other and the planet.”
The work with refugees who come from Syria, Afghanistan and African countries and elsewhere also has a double aim.
“We want to make sure that if they make their lives here they know how important it is to protect the environment, but also if they are able to return home or to another country that they carry those messages back with them,” said Georg.
Not only is the centre itself a model of sustainability with its own environment management system: when children leave the course they take back with them ideas on how to transform their own schools. The centre ties all theory very tightly to practice. In some schools, environmental representatives have been appointed and students introduced permanent energy saving routines for heating and ventilation and for the reduction of paper use and waste.
As part of the project young people also learn about the effects of climate change on societies in the form of soil erosion, extreme weather phenomena , rural depopulation, economies and the environment especially with regard to forest damage. They are motivated by quick feedback on successes in energy and water conservation and updates on the amount of forest planted.
Crucially children also take part in communication workshops to learn how best to share and pass on what they have learned at open school days or town halls.
For Georg one of the most satisfying aspects of his work is watching the transformation take place before his eyes.
“It might sound silly but students do actually write to me one or two years after the course and say that these five days changed their lives not only as far as the environment is concerned but as a human experience. Some had never met anyone from another country at all. And they got to plant a tree!”
And there is a new project already underway.
“We are now working to introduce a project to protect bees and insects. Everyone loves honey and honeybees so we think it will be a success,” he said.
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