On the International Day of Forests, which falls on Saturday, UN chief António Guterres is calling for 2020, which has been referred to as a “nature super year”, to be the year that the world turns the tide on deforestation and forestry loss.
This year’s International Day highlights the connections between forests and biodiversity, following a 2019 UN report that sounded the alarm about accelerating species extinction rates, and the unprecedented speed at which ecosystems are declining.
Forests and our unsustainable choices
The UN chief pointed out that forests, and the global environment in general, are being severely degraded by the unsustainable way that we are consuming natural resources, which is accelerating biodiversity loss and exacerbating climate change.
Given the huge role that forests play in preserving life on earth and regulating the climate (see the text box below), Mr. Guterres expressed his alarm at the damage being wrought by drought conditions in many parts of the world, citing devastating forest fires, from the Canadian Arctic and Siberia to California and Australia.
On top of this, deforestation continues to occur, due to large-scale agriculture: even though the annual rate of deforestation has halved over the last 25 years, vast areas of forests continue to be lost.
“We must act quickly to reverse this. Safeguarding forests is part of the solution” said Mr. Guterres, urging all governments and businesses and civil society to “take urgent action to halt deforestation and restore degraded forests, so future, generations can enjoy a greener, healthier future”.
Why we need to preserve forests
Forests are home to 80 per cent of life on land,
They are essential to human life, purifying the air and water, providing food, and the raw materials for medicines.
Forests influence the global climate and rainfall patterns,
And are major “carbon sinks”, absorbing some 2 billion tonnes of carbon every year.
Sustainably managing forests is a critical element in the bid to close the emissions gap, and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the vital role of forests for our future.
In 2017, a UN Plan for Forests was adopted, with a set of six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be achieved by 2030
International efforts to preserve forests
In our First Person feature story, learn what Hawaii’s National Tropical Botanical Garden is doing to preserve native plants, and save the biodiversity of the island archipelago.
And, in this UN in Action video, find out how zoologist Grace Luke is collecting data in the spectacular forests of Papua New Guinea to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that negatively impact the planet’s climate.
Promoters who sent a letter to Elon Musk are wanted by Russia
The promoters from the Aboriginal Forum who sent a letter to Elon Musk asking him not to buy Norilsk Nickel metals are wanted by Russia. Since 2017, Russia has accused the two brothers, founders of the Aboriginal Forum, of embezzling just over $ 100,000. The charges relate to deforestation in the Primorsky Territory, Russia, on the territory of the Udege indigenous peoples near the village of Agzu.
Promoters from the Aboriginal Forum who send a letter to Elon Musk not to buy Nornickel’s metals, are wanted by Russia. Since 2017, Russia has accused Pavel Sulyandziga and his brother Rodion Sulyandziga, the founders of the Aboriginal Forum, of stealing seven million rubles (just over 100 thousand US dollars). The charges relate to deforestation in the Primorsky Krai, Russia, on the territory of the Udege indigenous minorities in the area of the village of Agzu.
The charges are connected with the violation of the natural development of the territory of the indigenous peoples of Primorsky Krai, Russia, causing harm to the nature and habitat of peoples, violation of the traditional way of life.
The charges were brought forward by the Russian authorities in 2017. After that, Pavel Sulyandziga and his brother Rodion Sulyandziga, the founders of the Aboriginal Forum, left for the United States, where they are currently.
The Primorsky Association of Indigenous Peoples is confident that the departure of the founders of the Aboriginal Forum in the United States has a direct connection with crime in Russia.
Residents of Agzu village are sure that the brothers deceived them.
Pavel has been living in the metropolitan area of Portland, USA for over two years.
Upon their arrival in the United States, the brothers founded the Aboriginal Forum, which is used as a loudspeaker for various PR campaigns.
Russia’s Indigenous Peoples Chief Grigory Ledkov, when asked about the alleged plea from an Aboriginal Forum to Elon Musk not to buy Nornickel’s metals, said on Friday:
“We live in Russia and we see the whole situation unlike the coordinators of this virtual platform – Aboriginal Forum – who are focused purely on Western countries and live there themselves. Let’s go to the Tundra! Come to Russia! Let’s work together!”
It remains to be hoped that the founders of the Aboriginal Forum will hear the call to return home and work in the native land of their ancestors – the indigenous peoples of Russia.
How environmental policy can drive gender equality
Environmental degradation has gendered impacts which need to be properly assessed and monitored to understand and adopt gender-responsive strategies and policies. While designing these, it is essential that measures targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment are adequately formulated and mainstreamed.
To facilitate experience sharing and learning from good practices, on the 9th of September, the UNECE hosted a webinar on Gender Mainstreaming in Environmental Policies and Strategies. Ms. Astrid Krumwiede, head of the unit in charge of the development and application of gender aspects in environmental policy in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, shared experiences from Germany, which considers gender equality to be a cross cutting issue for all areas of environmental policy. On the national level, the Ministry for the Environment has sought to integrate gender equality in various ways, such as through dialogues, meetings, guidelines, education and policies. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the fragility of progress made in gender equality, the Federal Government adopted an economic stimulus package that includes measures to provide financial assistance for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Germany has also strived for the implementation of gender mainstreaming in environmental policy at the international level, which is especially true in the field of climate change in the context of measures and strategies concerning the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement.
Despite progress made, there are still some long-standing barriers to implementing gender mainstreaming. These include a lack of political support, a lack of women in decision making and leadership positions, insufficient representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics related professions, and outdated stereotypes. Moving forward, capacity building and equality impact assessment trainings need to be gender responsive so that suitable incentives are provided which enable women to participate. Communication and promotion are of vital importance, especially in finding new ways to communicate during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that gender equality remains a focal issue. Incorporating an intersectional approach to gender equality in environmental policy is also essential, since ignoring this in policymaking can create a system that creates and reinforces different forms of discrimination.
Looking to the future, in the words of Ms. Astrid Krumwiede, “it is time for tailor made environmental policies which reflect different needs and requirements for different people”.
The webinar was complemented by perspectives from UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews and the Protocol on Water and Health on the specific examples of gender mainstreaming in environmental reviews and water, sanitation and hygiene.
Climate Heat Maps Show How Hot It Could Get for Today’s Tweens
Climate-related impacts such as the wildfires in the western United States will only become more severe if we allow the worst-case scenario to unfold by 2100. A new EarthTime visualization shows just how hot the world may become in 2100, within the life expectancy of today’s tween, 10-12-year olds.
The findings, announced at the fourth World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, place even more urgency on business and government leaders to fast-track solutions and act now to prevent such a scenario unfolding.
Experts attempting to rank the severity of climate change scenarios likely to play out by the year 2100 refer to the worst of them as “RCP 8.5.” This entails more than 4°C in warming above pre-industrial levels, rising emissions, hundreds of millions of people being forced to migrate, and a big increase in forested area prone to the type of fires that have raged this summer (due to a phenomenon dubbed the “moisture deficit”).
The data model shows that by 2100:
Average June-August temperatures reach 38°C (100.4°F) for many parts of the world
New Delhi, India, has eight months a year with temperatures averaging 32ºC (89.6°F) up from six
Phoenix, Arizona, has nearly 200 days a year of temperatures hitting at least 32ºC (89.6°F)
Regions of southern Europe average June-August temperatures of 30°C (86°F)
Viet Nam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia’s June-August temperatures average more than 30°C (86°F)
Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, disappear under water due to rising sea levels
“Longer-term trends can often seem abstract and intangible,” said Stephan Mergenthaler, Head of Strategic Intelligence at the World Economic Forum. “Visualizing the effects of these trends, based on the latest scientific data, can help people take action and work towards shared goals.”
Experts agree that the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided if we limit global warming to below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Effective climate policies, fighting efforts to discredit legitimate science, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or offsetting it by planting new forests, and upgrading transportation and energy systems can all be part of the equation.
“To speed up the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals and create change, we need to get as many people involved as possible,” said John Dutton, Head of UpLink at the World Economic Forum. “Anyone can make an impact. We have seen the next generation of change-markers and social entrepreneurs stand up and create action plans on the UpLink platform to make sure we don’t see this visualization come true. Connecting these ideas to funding sources, scaling up impact and creating a community of support will help us address the critical opportunities ahead for this generation.”
Innovative projects on the UpLink platform include how to reduce emissions by buying and selling unused shipping container space, how to use waste management and data analytics to reduce plastic in the ocean, and how to create packaging made from sustainably farmed seaweed. Projects allow start-ups to flag what they need to succeed and connect them with software developers, funders, or resources to deliver impact.
80 EarthTime Stories
The climate visualization is one of nearly 80 EarthTime stories that have so far been published alongside hundreds of related topics on the Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform. They cover a broad range of issues including environmental protection, technology development, intellectual property trends and systemic racism. These visualizations are intended to help illustrate important global trends and dynamics in an easy-to-understand, readily accessible way.
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