21 March 2019
UNFF Note Highlights Linkages Among Forests, SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13, 16
Photo by Nikita Birkbeck
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In line with the 2019 HLPF review cycle, the UNFF Bureau decided that technical discussions at UNFF would focus on the following priorities: forests and SDG 13; forests and SDG 8; and forests and SDGs 4, 10 and 16, taking into account SDG 17.

The UNFF Secretariat released a background note that analyzes the interlinkages among these Goals and makes suggestions for UNFF 14.

15 February 2019: In preparation for the 14th session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF 14), the UNFF Secretariat released a background note on implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 (UNSPF). The note provides information on technical discussions on forests and the SDGs, and shares findings from analytical studies on forests and the SDGs.

The background note titled, ‘Implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030,’ aims to inform UNFF 4 discussions on: the thematic and operational priorities; priority actions and resource needs, taking into account the review cycle of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and the theme of the International Day of Forests; voluntary national contributions; and UN system-wide contributions to the implementation of the global forest goals and targets. The theme for the 2019 International Day of Forests is ‘Forests and Education,’ to highlight the linkages between SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 15 (life on land).

In line with the 2019 HLPF review cycle, the UNFF Bureau decided that technical discussions at UNFF would focus on the following priorities: forests and SDG 13 (climate action); forests and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth); and forests and SDG 4, SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), taking into account SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). UNFF is expected to finalize substantive input to the 2019 HLPF, including on progress, gaps, areas requiring urgent attention, lessons learned on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality and areas where political guidance by the HLPF is required.

On forests and SDG 13, the note emphasizes the role of forests and trees in regulating and stabilizing the global climate, contributing to the quantity of water and sustaining food and water security. The note explains that forests contribute to climate change mitigation when the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestered by forests exceeds that released through forest degradation and deforestation. The note cautions, however, that the conversion of forest land to agricultural land is a “leading cause of climate change.” The note stresses the importance of governments and stakeholders placing forest-based climate actions as an essential strategy to close greenhouse has (GHG) emissions gap, limit global average temperature rise and promote the role of conservation, sustainable forest management (SFM), increased forest cover and other benefits.

Forests contribute to climate change mitigation when the amount of CO2 sequestered by forests exceeds that released through forest degradation and deforestation.

On forests and SDG 8, the note states that forests provide an “irreplaceable and lasting foundation for economic activities across sectors” through the provision of wood and non-wood products and ecosystem services. If not sustainably managed, the note emphasizes, forest could become a source “for conflict and a space for refuge for marginalized populations.” The note underscores the importance of clear forest ownership and management rights for SFM, and recommends that governments further develop policies to secure tenure rights and equal benefit-sharing for the poor and vulnerable and to facilitate access to markets and better prices by providing access to the formal economy. The note observes that the contributions of forests to economic development are underestimated and unrecognized in official economic data and statistics in many countries and regions, which results in challenges to decoupling economic growth from the unsustainable use of forest resources. The note describes a number of other forest benefits, and recommends that governments and stakeholders support the development of wood-based products and markets as strategies to enhance income and employment in rural economies and create conditions and solutions for sustainable wood production, among other solutions.

On forests and SDG 4, SDG 10, SDG 16 and SDG 17, the report highlights the central role of forests in providing subsistence benefits and social safety nets for over 1.6 billion people. The report states that populations living in and around forests derive a considerable share of their household income from forest products, particularly the rural poor, and notes that, for people relying on forest products, income inequalities are “most often the result of inequalities in access to forests and other land” as well as financial resources. Within this context, the report emphasizes secure land and tenure rights are critical for economic development, rural livelihoods and social inclusion. Further, the report highlights that formal, non-formal and informal education approaches can play an essential role in raising awareness on the importance of forest resources for sustainable development. The note suggests that governments and stakeholders promote forest-based education for sustainable development, such as through development of a global core curriculum on forests, systematic research on forests in education and strengthening teacher trainings and education networks.

On communication, the note shares progress on the UNSPF’s communication and outreach strategy. The Forum Secretariat is gathering success stories, good practices and lessons learned on implementation of the Strategic Plan and the global forest goals, with a focus on contributions to the SDGs under review at the 2019 HLPF.

The note concludes with a number of suggestions. On the SDGs, the note recommends: strengthening implementation of the UNSPF as an integrated framework for forest-based national actions and international cooperation to accelerate progress towards SDG 13 and the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change; promoting synergies on forest-related climate actions with voluntary national contributions to the Strategic Plan and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement; requesting the Forum Secretariat to prepare and provide input on forest-based climate solutions to the 2019 HLPF and the 2019 UN Climate Summit; and promoting forest education and consumer awareness on sustainable use of forests and integrating forest-based climate solutions into climate change education. Recommendations also address communications, voluntary national contributions and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). [Implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030]

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