23 March 2017
International Day Highlights Linkages Between Forests and Energy
UN Photo/Eva Fendiaspara
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The International Day of Forests was celebrated on 21 March 2017 under the theme 'Forests and Energy'.

The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) organized a celebratory event at UN Headquarters in New York, US featuring a panel discussion on ‘Growing forests, harness energy for the future,’ and a general discussion on ‘Forests and energy are essential for the 2030 Agenda'.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) also held an event on the occasion, and launched publications on wood energy.

21 March 2017: The International Day of Forests was celebrated on 21 March 2017 under the theme ‘Forests and Energy.’ Of particular relevance to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 15 (Life on Land) and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), the theme of the 2017 celebration aimed to increase awareness of forest-energy interconnections and strengthen engagement between forest and energy practitioners and policy-makers. Among other actions, special events were hosted by the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

UNFF hosted an event at the UN Headquarters in New York, US. The event featured opening remarks by, among others, UNFF Secretariat Director Manoel Sobral Filho, and Amb. Nabeel Munir, Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). A panel discussion focused on ‘Growing forests, harness energy for the future,’ while a general discussion was held on the theme ‘Forests and energy are essential for the 2030 Agenda.’ Expanding the area of sustainably managed forests, especially in developing countries, is essential to meet the energy needs of billions of people who still use wood fuel as their energy source, discussions emphasized. The International Day of Forests 2017 also served as a contribution to the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024). [UN Webpage on the International Day of Forests] [UN Headquarters Event] [UN Press Release] [UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All Website]

Expanding the area of sustainably managed forests, especially in developing countries, is essential to meet the energy needs of billions of people who still use wood fuel as their energy source, discussions emphasized.

The FAO event featured, among others: a keynote address by Jioji Konousi Konrote, President of Fiji, who spoke on ‘Roles of forests and green energy in the implementation of the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement’; opening remarks by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva; and a statement by Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut, who addressed ‘The forests and energy nexus: key to sustainable development and resilient livelihoods.’ The International Day of Forests further coincided with the fifth Mediterranean Forest Week, held from 20-24 March in Agadir, Morocco, which this year focuses on the restoration of Mediterranean forests and landscapes. [FAO International Day of Forests Webpage] [Event Webcast] [FAO Press Release] [Fifth Mediterranean Forest Week]

A series of FAO publications on wood energy were also launched for the Day. ‘The Charcoal Transition’ argues that, despite the importance of wood fuel in many countries, few have explicitly included measures to reduce emissions from wood fuel production and consumption in their NDCs. The publication aims to provide data and information to allow for informed decision-making on the contribution that sustainable charcoal production and consumption can make to climate change mitigation. It answers questions regarding the climate change impacts of current practices on charcoal production and consumption worldwide and across regions; the potential of sustainable charcoal production in greenhouse gas emission reductions and how such potential can be achieved; and the key barriers to sustainable charcoal production and actions required to develop a climate-smart charcoal sector. [The Charcoal Transition: greening the charcoal value chain to mitigate climate change and improve local livelihoods] [The Charcoal Transition: executive summary]

A FAO policy brief on incentives to promote sustainable wood energy in sub-Saharan Africa highlights that wood fuel contributes to more than half of energy consumption in 22 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, and over two-thirds of the households in Africa use wood as their main fuel for cooking, heating and water boiling. However, while its use is expected to further increase due to population growth and urbanization, there is hardly any systematic approach to developing a sustainable wood energy sector in the region. Absence of effective policies governing wood fuel production, trade, conversion, and consumption and the resultant indiscriminate and inefficient wood fuel collection and use contributes to continued deforestation and forest degradation, as well as indoor air pollution with adverse health impacts. The brief argues that many examples exist where wood fuel production has shifted towards a sustainable trajectory, and effective approaches almost always consist of multiple, rather than single, measures. It is noted that meaningful shifts towards sustainable wood fuel value chains are achieved when structural changes and targeted policies are implemented in tandem, such as tenure reform and devolved forest management combined with differential taxation. [Policy Brief: Incentivizing Sustainable Wood Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Way Forward for Policy-Makers]

Several organizations and multilateral environmental agreements issued messages on the occasion. The incoming Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Cristiana Paşca Palmer stressed that ‘forests and the products they provide have a key role in securing sustainable energy globally, while at the same time being essential for biodiversity, healthy ecosystems, and climate change mitigation’ and highlighted decisions taken at the UN Biodiversity Conference held in December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico, on integrating biodiversity considerations in the forest sector. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) highlighted that, through strictly regulating international trade in certain timber and non-timber forest products to ensure legality, sustainability and traceability, CITES contributes towards the SDGs, including SDG 15. The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) drew attention to a project in Cote d’ Ivoire that enables a women’s association to improve charcoal production using efficient, eco-friendly techniques. [CBD Press Release] [CITES Press Release] [ITTO Press Release]

In addition, the World Bank stressed “forest-smart” strategies delivering benefits for people and the environment, by taking a comprehensive look at landscapes to understand how forests are affected by activities in other sectors and how to enhance the benefits derived from forests. The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), with FAO, organized an event in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on ‘Wood energy: opportunities and risks.’ The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a virtual symposium on 21-22 March on the linkages of forests, water and climate. [World Bank Press Release] [UNECE Event] [CIFOR Virtual Symposium]

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