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Experts, leaders call for comprehensive approach on forestry issues

"All countries should give full play to forestry’s role," according to Jia Zhibang, China’s Minister of State Forestry Administration.

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Photo courtesy of Nick Hogarth/CIFOR

BEIJING, China (8 November, 2011)_Policy makers should approach forestry issues in a comprehensive manner, taking into account the multiple functions that forests have as well as the variety of actors and sectors impacting and being affected by policies in forestry, said experts at the opening of the Asia Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) in Beijing yesterday.

“As long as governments tend to treat forestry as a very narrow issue, we’ll face challenges in achieving sustainable forest management,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests. Major changes cannot be attained through piecemeal improvements only, she said.

Home to only 18.4 percent of the total forest area worldwide and more than half of the global population, the Asia Pacific region is already the least forested area per-capita in the world. Forests in Asia Pacific are facing increasing pressures from the agricultural, energy and mining sectors while the global economy, reeling from the worst financial crisis in decades, relies on the region as the world’s engine for growth.

Our current challenge is to understand the forces shaping the world’s and anticipate the opportunities that will emerge, said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) Forestry Department. These include the changes in demographics and consumers’ behavior, shifts in economic landscape and efforts to fight climate change.

China, the world’s fastest growing major economy and second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has conducted various programs to grab new opportunities in the forestry sector. Mainly through new forest plantations, China has expanded its tree cover by 45 million hectares in the past two decades, according to FAO’s latest data. The government is aiming to add another 40 million hectares of forest area by 2020 and is continuing subsidies for tree planting as part of its strategy to meet this goal.

“All countries should give full play to forestry’s role in social and economic development, seize historic opportunities, redefine forestry industry, expand forestry business with more ambitious targets and develop newly emerging forestry industries,” said Jia Zhibang, China’s Minister of State Forestry Administration, at the opening of APFW.

Until several decades ago, forests used to be seen as “idle” land, which should be utilized either for timber or to give way to plantations, farms, and mining areas. Forests have received renewed attention for their role as carbon sinks as the world struggles to minimize the impacts of global warming. Climate change negotiators in Durban later this month will try to hammer out details for a mechanism called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and enhancement of carbon storage, or REDD+, to give incentives to developing countries to retain forest area.

REDD+ should adopt a rural landscape approach and include agriculture, which accounts for 15 percent of total greenhouse gases emissions, under its convention, said Andrew Steer, Special Envoy for Climate Change at the World Bank. Negotiators declined such a proposal in last year’s climate change talks because “it’s too complicated,” said Steer in his keynote address.

“They used to say no to forests because that used to be too complicated” to be included in a global agreement to cut emissions, he added, alluding that negotiators should also be able to find a way to include agriculture.

The second Asia Pacific Forestry Week will take place from 7 to 11 November 2011 in Beijing. The event, attended by hundreds of key forestry stakeholders from across the region, is being organized by FAO, the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) and the State Forestry Administration of China.

For other reports from the event, visit the blogs of these organizations:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC)

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Topic(s) :   REDD+