Today is the international forest day. Who cares? While Russia is invading Ukraine and the pandemic still puts so many lives at risk across the globe, our attention must not be distracted from the current environmental chaos, which is a planetary emergency, where forests are on the front line.
Targets were clearly set: the UN Strategic Plan for Forests as well as the Objectives of 2014 New York Declaration on Forests must be met by 2030. Achieving these goals is critical at a time when forests, as the world's largest land-based carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots, are being heavily impacted by the twin crises of the anthropocene: the massive biodiversity loss and the accelerating changes in climate, both at the nexus of deforestation and poor restoration. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) provides a window of opportunity to address these complex challenges.
In times when the international community is being affected by war, let’s remember one thing: we all live on the same planet. This is the very spirit of the universally agreed 2014 Sustainable Development Goals. SDG #17 is even more specific: we need partnerships to solve these transnational problems. We need to bring together multilateral institutions, national and local governments, large firms and SMEs, NGOs, communities and indigenous peoples as well as academia to advance the Global Forest Goals. From policy innovations to field programs, we need a holistic approach to guide us as quickly as we need, as boldly as we must, to deliver timely and effective solutions.
We firmly believe that this partnership spirit must not be impacted by current geopolitical tensions. This collaborative approach is vital and this is why we launched the Global Forest Summit in 2021. From 2022 on, every year in March, this global landmark event for forests will convene game-changing actors who combat deforestation, boost quality landscape forest restoration, foster sustainable management of forests and secure the adequate funding to take up all these challenges. These are the four goals we need to track and enable between now and 2030. This science-driven, civil-society-led and multi-stakeholder platform is a place to surface innovations, foster collaboration, and strengthen accountability for delivery of forest commitments. It’s a place where we can raise our ambitions, share best practices, wonder about the risks and track results. From the top of international policy makers or corporate leaders to small farmers or local indigenous and communities, we need to connect the dots.
Let’s start with the main issue: deforestation. This is a global scourge that is dramatically exacerbating the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity - reaching a tipping point where the Amazon could potentially turn from a rainforest into a savannah. As forests account for 30 % of our natural terrestrial absorption capabilities of carbon dioxide and for 80 % of terrestrial biodiversity, it’s madness to believe that we could both win any environmental battle and maintain favorable living conditions for future generations without protecting forests. The stakes are high: 10 million hectares were deforested every year between 2015 and 2020, according to FAO. The 2030 UN timeline is clear; but we will not meet the deadline without immediate monitorable actions to halt deforestation.
In addition to deforestation, we face the impacts from land degradation. The accelerating ecosystem deterioration calls on us to make efforts to stop degradation per se, as it increasingly fuels our greenhouse gas emissions, and to put restoration on top of the agenda too. This second challenge is not only due to deforestation itself, but also to poor forest management practices. Global objectives were agreed upon per the 2011 Bonn Challenge to restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030. Currently, international pledges for restoration amount to 210 million hectares. We remain far from the objective and we - again - miss an accountability process to monitor delivery of these pledges at the global and regional scale. We need all actors to join forces to accurately monitor, report and verify progress in implementing pledges and achieving these ambitions.
We face the magnitude of the deforestation and forest restoration challenges; but quality solutions are needed to address them accordingly. Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit the principles of sustainable management for forests have been established. These commitments - enhanced along the road to Rio+30 - enable us to hope for a significant increase in the forest area certified for their sustainable management. We need to reach 830 million hectares by 2030. To get to this point, we still have to create economic incentives that foster adoption of these practices.
Everyone is aware that money is urgently needed to meet these objectives. None of these challenges can be achieved without major financial resources. The New York Forest Platform estimates up to $65 billion must be invested every year by 2030 to achieve these Goals. We commend the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and the financial pledges made at the UNFCCC COP 26; but again, we need a fully-fledged accountability mechanism and mobilization of finance at the scale needed to achieve the objectives.
Geopolitical tensions and health threats must never make us turn a blind eye to the accelerating environmental crises. The Global Goals shall remain our direction by 2030. Today’s International Forest Day recalls this absolute necessity: protecting faster, restoring stronger, managing better our forests is the way forward.
Stéphane Hallaire (Founder & CEO of Reforest’Action) and Thomas Friang (Founder & CEO of Open Diplomacy), Co-founders and Co-chairs of the Global Forest Summit, with Dr. Musonda Mumba (Director of UNDP’s Rome Center for Sustainable Development and former Chair of the GPFLR), Dr. Robert Nasi (Director-general of CIFOR and Managing-Director of CIFOR-ICRAS), Dr. Madhu Rao (Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas), Dr. Rod Taylor (Global Forest Director of the World Resources Institute), Dr. Izabella Teixeira (Former Environment Minister of Brazil, Co-chair of the UNEP’s International Resources Panel), H.E. Prof. Judi Wakhungu (Former Environment Minister of Kenya, Ambassador of Kenya to France, Portugal, Monaco, Serbia and the Holy See), Sir Robert Watson (Former Chair of the IPCC and the IPBES, Emeritus Professor at East Anglia University), Members of the International Advisory Board of the Global Forest Summit.