On International Day of Forests, Asian youth learn that forests can offer a good renewable source of energy for their future if managed sustainably
With the largest land mass on earth, forests in the Asia-Pacific region hold great potential for both climate change mitigation and contain, within them, a means to displace non-renewable fossil fuels as a future energy source, an FAO-co-sponsored student debate heard today.
The theme of this year’s International Year of Forests is ‘Forests and Energy’ and students from six high schools and two post-secondary institutions in Bangkok debated the pros and cons of tapping into forests as a source to meet future energy needs while mitigating and adapting to climate change.
This annual debate is co-organized by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC) and UN Environment (formerly UNEP).
“FAO recognizes climate change as one of the key challenges of present and future generations. And the theme of ‘Forests and Energy’ is particularly relevant in this context because forests are at the heart of the transition to low-carbon economies,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during her opening remarks to the students.
“While forests and forest products have a key role to play in mitigation and adaptation, not only because of their role as both sink and source of emissions, they also have the potential for wider use of wood products to displace more fossil fuel intense products,” she added. “So we engage with young people like you to get your thoughts on this and we learn from you.”
The participants heard that wood has always been the world’s most used source of renewable energy – more than solar, hydroelectric or wind power – accounting for roughly 40 percent of the current global renewable energy supply. About 50 percent of global wood production provides energy for cooking, heating and electricity generation. For 2.4 billion people, wood fuel means a cooked and more nutritious meal, boiled water, and a warm dwelling.
Wood energy also powers economic development, employing nearly 900 million people in developing countries in the wood energy sector. There is considerable potential to further modernize the wood energy sector, leading to revitalization of rural economies and stimulation of enterprise development.
Globally, forests hold an energy content approximately 10 times that of the world’s annual primary energy consumption and they present significant potential as renewable resources to meet the global energy demand. However, fully utilizing these resources would require greater investment in technological innovation and sustainable forest management.
The participants concluded that deriving increased energy from forests in the future does have great potential but must be achieved in a way that meet several Sustainable Development Goals while meeting the requirements of growing a green economy.