International consensus on forests’ vital role in fighting climate change

The world’s forests have immense potential to lessen the impacts of climate change, but if this opportunity is going to be realized, unified global action is now required, according to a remarkable alliance of international forest leaders.

A river in Los Katios National Park, Colombia 
by Jim Thorsell, January 1994

The Forests Dialogue’s Initiative on Forests and Climate Change brought together more than 250 representatives of governments, forestry companies, trade unions, environmental and social groups, international organizations, forest owners, indigenous peoples and forest-community groups in a series of meetings over 10 months. For the first time, the group has agreed on five guiding principles for climate change negotiators. (see attached one page summary.)

In a landmark statement entitled Beyond REDD: The Role of Forests in Climate Change, the Initiative also agreed on exactly what role forests can play in the battle to halt damaging climate change. The group specifies that sustainable forest management that reduces deforestation and degradation and that actively supports the livelihoods of millions of forest-dependent communities must now be one of the world’s highest priorities. This is because forests and forest products have the unique ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, capture carbon, and lessen peoples’ vulnerability to climate change.

“For the first time on this unprecented scale, forest leaders, business representatives, donors, and community groups not only agreed on the pivotal role that forests can play in mitigating climate change but also mapped out a consensus action plan on concrete next steps. We now ask the world to work with us in putting these guiding principles into action,” says Stewart Maginnis, Head of the Forest Conservation Programme at IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“All of us have a shared responsibility to insist on sustainable forest management that produces fiber for wood and paper products, bioenergy and that also provides critical ecosystems services such as carbon sequestration and water quality,” says James Griffiths, Managing Director of the Sustainable Forest Products Industry project at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Initiative also emphasizes that forest governance and local rights to forests and their resources, especially those of forest-dependent communities, must be clarified, strengthened and made more transparent if sustainable forest management is to succeed.

“We live in a defining moment of time, when the very well-being of our earth is at stake, our economy is in turmoil and the lives of billions of people threatened. This is the climate change moment,” says Mr Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of Aliansi MasyarakatAdat Nusantara (Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), Indonesia. “Listen to the indigenous people around the world. Our knowledge will harness the climate change mitigation potential of our forests and in turn will promote economic development and conservation.”

“Despite the many varied perspectives and interests that make up the broad forest community, The Forests Dialogue process produced strong agreement on these key sustainable forest management principles for addressing climate change,” said Gerhard Dieterle, World Bank Forestry Advisor.

The Forests Dialogue urges the world’s governments to mobilize the resources necessary to develop and implement climate change mitigation and adaptation policies that make the vital role of forests clear. The Forests Dialogue is committed to working with the public and private sector in the formulation of these policies so that their guiding principles are adopted, the expertise of forest dependent communities is incorporated, the foundations of sustainable development included and the underlying causes of deforestation tackled.

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