18 November 2020
DESA Brief: Investment in Forests Critical for Successful COVID-19 Recovery
Photo by Jeevan Katel on Unsplash
story highlights

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected income and services from forests as well as funding for sustainable forest management.

The brief highlights how several countries are integrating forest financing into COVID-19 stimulus packages and recovery plans.

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released a policy brief arguing that sustainable forest management is a critical component of the COVID-19 recovery. The brief analyzes the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the income generation function of forests, and identifies opportunities to mobilize investment and resources for forests.

The report, titled ‘Financing sustainable forest management: a key component of sustainable COVID-19 recovery,’ states that investing in forests is critical to the success of COVID-19 recovery plans and for reducing deforestation and forest degradation. Forests currently serve as a safety net for a rising number of poor people and offer safe spaces for socially distanced recreation, alleviating anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19. In addition, the forestry industry provides raw materials for essential goods.

Sustainably managed forests can prevent zoonotic disease, enhance livelihoods, and regulate the climate.

On the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on forests, the brief notes that both wood and non-wood forest industries have experienced impacts from the pandemic, resulting in lost revenue for private, public, and community-based enterprises and increased unemployment and loss of income from both the formal and informal forest sectors. The authors explain that although demand has increased for some forest based-products, such as packing materials and toilet paper, disruptions in global supply chains and overall decreased demand for wood products have negatively affected the wood industry.

The non-wood forest industry is also experiencing a decline: informal income of local communities from non-wood forest products, including honey and mushrooms, is declining; forest-based tourism has declined, and jobs in forest conservation and monitoring have been reduced. The brief states that the most vulnerable are “being forced back to poverty and hunger” and this increased “vulnerability affects forests and other natural resources, which are often the most accessible source of livelihood and income.”

The pandemic has also affected funding for forests as countries have shifted financial resources towards emergency humanitarian needs. Most low- and middle-income countries have faced challenges in maintaining or raising adequate national public funding for forests. The report provides data on international public financing for forests, including official development assistance (ODA) trends, and private financing or sustainable forest management. The authors highlight that  health, social and economic recovery needs might divert resources away from forests.

On how sustainable forest management can support COVID-19 recovery, the policy brief argues that in the short-term and medium-term, the forestry sector can continue to provide essential products and create job opportunities while also supplementing global food and nutrition security. In the long-term, sustainably managed forests can prevent future zoonotic disease, enhance people’s livelihoods, and regulate the health of biodiversity, climate, and ecosystems.

Several countries are integrating forest financing into COVID-19 stimulus packages and recovery plans. The brief reports that:

  • Finland approved €53 million of investment in green areas, forest conservation and water services;
  • India is spending USD790 million to generate employment through afforest and forest restoration activities;
  • New Zealand announced it will provide USD1.1 billion to create 11,000 environmental jobs, including biodiversity enhancement on public and private land and pest eradication and management;
  • The UK launched a Green Recovery Challenge Fund of £40 million to support local conservation and job delivery and will plant 75,000 trees annually through 2025.

The brief suggests that donor countries and the international community protect and increase support for developing countries’ recovery efforts, including green components of post-pandemic recovery packages.

To better inform and guide decision-making on addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on forests and the forest sector, the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat is conducting an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable forest management, the forest sector, forest-dependent people, indigenous peoples and local communities, and forest financing and international cooperation. The 16th session of the UNFF in April 2021 will review the assessment.

The policy brief is part of a larger series from DESA. [Publication: Financing sustainable forest management: a key component of sustainable COVID-10 recovery] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on previous policy brief on forests and COVID-19]

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