On March 21, 2022, we celebrate International Forest Day for the 10th year in a row to raise awareness of the importance of forests. Our lives are just as dependent on the land as on the sea regarding both food and livelihood. Moreover, forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land and accommodates more than 80% of the terrestrial specifies of animals, plants and insects. Forests cover 30% of the earth’s surface and are vital habitats for millions of species, they are sources of clean air and water, and of course crucial for fighting climate change. A study from the UN shows that forests actually can lift one billion people out of poverty and create additional 80 million green jobs.
International Forest Day is a tremendous occasion to celebrate the world’s wildlife and humanities’ achievements in preservation of it, to educate the public on forests and ecosystems. But it is also a suitable opportunity and the right time to address global problems and to mobilize political will to take action. Last month, the UN agency on climate change, IPCC, published a report revealing the deadly consequences of climate change for people in all parts of the world in the coming decades. The consequences of climate change are worse than ever, highlighting the importance of global unity.
Sustainable development goal 15: sustainable management of forests
In 2015, all United Nations Member States adopted a development policy on sustainability which centers around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The 17 goals provide a global blueprint for peace and prosperity of people and the planet and are set to be achieved by 2030. Goal 15, labelled Life on Land, concerns sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable management of forest, fighting desertification and reversing land degradation. Goal 15 seeks to restore and conserve terrestrial ecosystems e.g. wetlands, forests and mountains by 2030.
But how severe is the situation with the forests?
Investments in forests equals investments in people
Loss of agricultural land is occurring 30 to 35 times faster than the historical rate. The same goes for drought and desertification. 10 million hectares are lost every year, affecting poor communities around the world. Also, the world’s forests act as shields from zoonotic diseases, which means that their destruction will have fatal consequences for the global public health. In fact, 1 out of 3 outbreaks of new and emerging diseases, e.g. HIV and SARS, are linked to deforestation and other land use changes. Another benefit of woods is the fact that they help provide bacteria-free food and water and they create fibers for
clothes. It is quite clear that investing in forests and forestry equals investments in people, especially the rural poor, youth and women. Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.
Despite these social, health and economic benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. And a recent report from a UN agency iterates that climate change is coming faster than we first assumed.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and AR6
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a body of the United Nations, which evaluates the risks of climate change and gives advice to policy makers. The panel consists of hundreds of experts from around the world and brings together 195 states in total. The IPCC has published five assessment reports reviewing climate change and requesting action from governments around the world. The sixth assessment report (AR6) is in the making and explains the environmental, technical, ecological and socioeconomic aspects of climate change. AR6 has been divided into three parts, where the first two deal with “physical science basis” and “impacts, adaption and vulnerability”, respectively, and have already been published. The second report got published in February 2022.
Forest fires, drought and deforestation
First, AR6 states that climate change is unambiguously due to human activities and that all continents are expected to experience e.g. more heat waves, floods and extreme weather phenomena. The land is drying up and the seas are rising, and it will aggravate the situation even more if the rises in temperature are above 1.5 degrees. IPCC reported that an increase of temperature between 2.1 and 3.5 is most likely. However, experts around the world have warned that if the rises in temperature become higher than 1.5 degrees, then we will risk losing all control of the climate resulting in ecosystems collapsing without the possibility of restoration afterwards. The last part of AR6 will describe “mitigation of climate change” and is planned for later in 2022. This part will tell us how and to what extend it is possible to mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Another report from last week specifies that the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon, is approaching irreparable damage due to forest fires and deforestation. This emerges from a new study from the journal Nature Climate change. They state that the Amazon is losing resilience and is at a crucial threshold of rainforest dieback. Factors such as droughts,
forest fires, climate change and deforestation jointly reduce forest resilience. If the forest dies, it can have gargantuan repercussions for the whole globe; the Amazon covers large parts of South America and is home to around 25% of the earth’s total biodiversity. Furthermore, it is an important collector of CO2 in the atmosphere, and without forests the temperature will increase and the soil will not hold water, resulting in floods.
Forests for sustainable lifestyles and a circular economy
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) celebrates International Forest Day on 21 March with an online event focusing on how leaders in the fashion textile and packaging sectors are shaping sustainable relationships between forests and circular production models to reduce CO2 emissions, waste and pollution.
Experts will share innovative resolutions to transform the linear economy into a circular economy and embed it into supply chains. Furthermore, they will discuss issues related to wood fiber-based products, sustainable production and climate change.
The event will take place virtually on 21 March 2022 between 10:00-12:00 and from 14:00-16:00 CET in English, French and Russian. Read more here.
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