The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) highlighted the interlinkages between the Global Forest Goals (GFGs), the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), and the five SDGs under review by the 2023 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July – SDGs 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

The UNFF’s 18th session convened in New York, US, from 8-12 May 2023.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting highlights the role forests play in mitigating climate change, combating soil erosion, and protecting watersheds, biodiversity, and key ecosystems. The forest products sector, ENB notes, can also be “a significant source of jobs, fuel, and income.”

Yet, the ENB analysis of the meeting notes, “the rates of deforestation are still alarming,” with an estimated 10 million hectares per year lost between 2015-2020, and the world has only 6.5 years left to achieve the GFG target of increasing forest area by 3% worldwide from 2017 by 2030.

Against this background, delegates undertook technical discussions on the implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 (UNSPF), highlighting synergies with other global efforts on forests, land degradation, biodiversity, climate change, and other aspects of sustainable development.

Delegates heard presentations about regenerative agriculture, the forests-energy-livelihoods nexus, and the role of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Adaptation Fund, and regional development banks in protecting forests. The Forum also discussed a special presentation on the potential of carbon markets for forest finance.

UNFF18 reviewed preparations for the Midterm Review (MTR) in 2024 of the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF), and heard updates on:

  • the UNSPF communications and outreach strategy;
  • the global core set of forest-related indicators;
  • the pilot phase for the use of the refined format for voluntary national reporting to the Forum;
  • preparations for the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2025 of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO); and
  • operations and resources of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN).

Participants recognized the important role of restoration, conservation, and sustainable management of forests in pursuing other major goals set for 2030, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, most of the SDGs, and the Global Biodiversity Framework. As one delegate noted, “[w]e must care for the forest in order to care for forest-dependent people, and this actually means Earth’s entire population.” [ENB Coverage of UNFF18]