Forests have become a permanent fixture in climate discussions, from their inclusion in the Paris Agreement to the recent Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use at COP26. These ecosystems provide vital solutions for halting global climate change and enabling sustainable development. Harnessing the power of forests also requires ongoing communication and collaboration among international climate and forestry experts to drive cross sectoral and multi-level action.
Organized by the Korea Forest Service (KFS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) last month, the World Forestry Congress (WFC) presented an opportunity for the international community to evaluate the state of the world’s forest resources and consider the pathway towards building a green, healthy and resilient future. The UN-REDD Programme, FAO and other partners, explored challenges and opportunities for concrete action to halt and reverse forest loss, the need for financial innovation and ways for enabling and scaling up climate finance.
The Congress highlighted innovations such as the launch of a new mechanism for countries to better understand, manage and affront forest fires, a topic increasingly at the center of REDD+ country strategies and implementation. Similarly, FAO teamed up with Climate Focus, World Agroforestry and the World Economic Forum to launch the FERM Registry for practitioners to track their progress towards the achievement of a restored future. KFS and the UN-REDD Programme introduced the concept of a capacity-building platform for forests and climate designed to support countries in accelerating their progress in the three phases of REDD+.
The author (middle) reporting in the plenary session
Building upon progress, negotiations and commitments, this decade must achieve reductions in deforestation and actively restore land and ecosystems. WFC left participants energized and hopeful, but also acutely aware of the need for concrete action and direct funding to incentivize conservation, sustainable management and forest restoration.
The Ministerial Forum on Forest Finance identified solutions to bridge the funding gap that exists between what is needed and what is available to implement global commitments on forests and scale up protection. Ultimately, to address this concern, public and private investment must scale up to make funds more accessible.
Thematic sessions also emphasized the importance of understanding the dynamic drivers of forest use. In this context, the key role of agrifood system transformation was clearly stated as a game changer to turn the tide on deforestation, through greater stakeholder cooperation and coherence between environmental and economic policies. Demand-side and supply-side measures together, linked to agricultural production, trade and consumption, can further accelerate systematic change. Partnership and trust are paramount factors of success. A paradigm shift is required to achieve goals established in the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda, with a special role held by local communities, indigenous peoples and women and youth, in promoting the key drivers of such deep and systemic change.
Thanks to REDD+ processes, many countries have developed specific strategies to reduce deforestation, linking to national climate and development commitments, strengthened technical and institutional capacities and arrangements and improved inclusive and participatory visions to ensure carbon and socio-environmental benefits. Many countries demonstrated results on the ground, including Argentina, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia, Colombia, Malaysia and countries in the Lower Mekong Region. This year is a critical year to accelerate delivery on commitments and to collectively reduce deforestation and degradation.
Events such as the WFC help to celebrate the role of forests, set global agendas for action, define new measures and make information-based recommendations for reversing the tide of deforestation while also addressing biodiversity loss, strengthening food security and improving livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. This knowledge sharing sets the stage for a greater understanding of the need for results-oriented, forest-focused policies and practices.
WFC represents a step in the direction of a greener and more sustainable decade. As a show of renewed commitments and a final push for action, WFC closed with a clear set of action points and the Seoul Forest Declaration. This declaration reiterated the urgency of climate change and forest-related challenges, highlighting key messages from the week's events and solutions and tools for implementing change.
Momentum is high and will only increase in the lead up to COP27 and other international assemblies. As the world keeps facing multiple crises – climate, health, biodiversity and food security, 2022 holds a promise for intense and targeted global action.