Investing in Sustainably Managed Forests Offers Energy Solutions Now and in the Future
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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The issues of forests and energy are closely interlinked, and this is why this issue was the theme of this year’s International Day of Forests.

If the current trend of slowing forest loss, combined with forest restoration and plantation efforts continues, a future where we achieve zero net global deforestation can go from being a dream to a reality soon.

Sustainably managed forests are healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which can meet the growing need for forest products, including sustainably produced fuelwood, while at the same time meeting the basic needs of people, and providing jobs and income.

Forests and trees populated our planet long before we came into existence. At the end of the last great ice age 10,000 years ago, forests covered 6 billion hectares — or 45% of the Earth’s land area. In the last five thousand years, 1.8 billion hectares of forests have disappeared from the face of the Earth. The majority of this loss — about 1.4 billion hectares — has occurred in the last 300 years.

Over the centuries, the world’s forests have provided vital resources to meet the growing needs of human populations. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes this important role of forests in supporting global sustainable development, in particular through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, which aims to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation, as well as halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

Today, about 40% of populations in less developed countries, an estimated 2.4 billion people, still rely on wood fuel for cooking and heating. Nearly 90% of all fuelwood and charcoal use takes place in developing countries, where forests are often the only energy source available to the rural poor. The issues of forests and energy are closely interlinked, and this is why this issue was the theme of this year’s International Day of Forests.

In January this year, Member States of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) adopted the first United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests. The Plan features a set of 6 Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be reached by 2030, which are voluntary and universal. This includes a landmark target to expand global forest area by 3% by 2030, an area of 120 million hectares, about the size of South Africa; as well as an ambitious target to eradicate extreme poverty for all forest dependent people by 2030.

Developing countries are not the only ones that rely on wood energy to meet their energy needs. Bioenergy from forest biomass (including wood pellets and wood processing waste), accounts for about 45% of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. Countries across Europe are converting their large power plants from using only coal to a mix of coal and wood products to meet renewable “carbon neutral” energy goals.

As population growth continues, the demand for forest goods and services will likely increase as well. Within the next 15 years, the world’s population is expected to reach 8.4 billion people – with most of this growth occurring in Africa and Asia. The needs of these future generations will only be met if we take urgent action to ensure that all types of forests, be they natural, semi-natural or planted, are managed sustainably.

If the current trend of slowing forest loss, combined with forest restoration and plantation efforts continues, a future where we achieve zero net global deforestation can go from being a dream to a reality soon.

Over the past 25 years, the rate of net global deforestation has slowed by more than 50%. If the current trend of slowing forest loss, combined with forest restoration and plantation efforts continues, a future where we achieve zero net global deforestation can go from being a dream to a reality soon.

Sustainably managed forests are healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems, which can meet the growing need for forest products, including sustainably produced fuelwood, while at the same time meeting the basic needs of people, and providing jobs and income.

We are the stewards of our planet and the health of its environment is in our hands. If we are to create a better, more equitable and sustainable world for future generations, and realize the vision set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need to take action now.


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