Forests have the potential for reducing 5 gigatonnes of emissions, says delegates
Discussions on integrated policies on sustainable forest management (SFM) and energy to meet the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) took centre stage on the fourth day of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF18).
The delegates at the eighteenth session of UNFF18, held from May 8-12, 2023, in New York, discussed the contributions of SFM to energy, livelihoods and the SDGs.
Sheam Satkuru, executive director of the International Tropical Timber Organization, emphasised its mandate to practice SFM in tropical regions. Satkuru stressed on ensuring sustainable sourcing of tropical timber.
The increased use of bioenergy since 2013 has added pressure on forests, said Satkaru. Over five billion people across the world benefit from non-timber forest products, of which forest ecosystems provide 55 per cent of renewable energy requirements, Zhimin Wu, forestry director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted.
Over two billion people cook food, while 33 million are directly employed in the forestry sector. Industrially harvested trees that become wood residue contribute to a significant source of bioenergy, Wu said.
Forests have the potential for reducing five gigatonnes of emissions, Mirey Atallah, head of UNEP’s Nature for Climate branch, said, citing the findings of the Emissions Gap Report. Demand sets the carbon market prices rather than the supply of forest goods, Atallah said.
During the session, Saudi Arabia stressed on the need to prevent forest fires and urban expansion that encroaches on forests. Sharing concerns on wildfires and the problems associated with current forest certification schemes, India presented a case of a UNFF country-led initiative on long-term SFM.
Suriname, claiming to be the most forested and carbon-negative country, shared its experience of how economic pressure has impacted its green cover and environmental policies. The country committed to 23 per cent of net energy from renewable sources by 2025 and is going carbon neutral by 2060.
Stressing their commitment to various forest conservation measures, such as SFM, REDD+, forest planning and certification, Congo and the Dominican Republic called for strategies to reduce pressures on natural forests and simultaneously improve livelihoods as it has a heavy dependency on fuelwood.
Countries such as Zhimin and Satkuru suggested replacing plastic sticks with residues of compacted bamboo or sawdust to produce briquettes and pellets. China claimed to have generated 41.32 gigawatts of power through wood biomass which would enable it to achieve carbon neutrality before 2030.
However, some countries disagreed and raised their concerns. Wood energy is exhaustible and releases carbon, said Morocco. Australia shared its stance, saying that many species depend on fire for germination and informed on mechanical fuel load reduction trials. Wood residue markets should be made financially feasible, the country added.
Wu stressed for integrated and innovative approaches to transition towards agro-food and agroforestry.
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