COVID-19 has aggravated challenges to manage forests: UN Report

New UN report calls for greater sustainability and a greener, more inclusive economy to tackle the threats of COVID-19, climate change and biodiversity crisis faced by forests  

By Susan Chacko
Published: Wednesday 28 April 2021
The forest of Mawphlang in Meghalaya. Photo: Wikimedia

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has aggravated the challenges faced by countries in managing their forests, a recent United Nations report has said.

Forests have been a lifeline for millions of people during the pandemic. Some of the most vulnerable segments of society, especially the rural poor and indigenous peoples have turned to forests for their most essential subsistence needs.

This has increased pressures on forest systems, the Global Forest Goals Report 2021, prepared by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, said.

The report, released April 26, 2021, draws upon 52 voluntary national reports and 19 voluntary national contributions, representing 75 per cent of forests in the world.

It provides an initial overview of progress towards achieving the six Global Forest Goals and their 26 associated targets as contained within the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030.

The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 was created with a mission to promote sustainable forest management and enhance the contribution of forests and trees to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Plan recognizes that in order to create a world in which forests could provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations, they will be needed by humanity in the first place.

 Quantified goals for forest area / tree planting as reported by countries

Country Official objective as reported by countries
Australia Plant 20 million trees by 2020 and a billion plantation trees by 2030
Brazil Increase planted area by two million hectares (ha)
Bulgaria No decrease in forested area allowed            
Côte d’Ivoire Increase forest cover to 20 per cent by 2030
India Add 200,00 ha of forests and tree cover per year
Jamaica No net forest loss
Japan Maintain 25 million ha of forest
Kenya Increase tree cover to 10 per cent
Madagascar Restore four million ha by 2030              
Myanmar Increase forest cover to 30 per cent     
New Zealand Plant one billion trees between 2018-2028
Nigeria Increase forest cover from 6 to 25 per cent by 2030
Panama Restore one million ha between 2015-2035
Philippines Rehabilitate 1.5 million ha of denuded and degraded forestland
Sri Lanka Increase forest cover to 32 per cent
Suriname Preserve present level of forest cover at 93 per cent
Thailand Increase forest cover to 55 per cent

The first Global Forest Goal in the Plan provides for increasing forest area by three per cent by 2030.

Climate change and a biodiversity crisis are other big threats to forest ecosystems besides the pandemic.

The ‘Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) had highlighted that one million species were at risk of extinction and that 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost from 1980-2000.

The report called for a future course of action that included greater sustainability and a greener and more inclusive economy to tackle the threats of COVID-19, climate change and the biodiversity crisis faced by forests.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.