Bangkok, Thailand, 21 Mar 2014 -- While it’s well recognized that forests are our future, the time needed to restore and manage them more sustainably is running short, an FAO convened meeting in Bangkok heard today.
The 21st of March is International Day of Forests, and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific has marked the day by convening a forestry debate: “Forestry in a changing world!” The debate was co-organized by FAO, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Forests are the lungs of our planet,” Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific told the gathering. “This International Day of Forests is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of all types of forests and trees to our economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being.”
While the link between deforestation and climate change has been reported for years, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been slow to implement the changes necessary to sustainably manage and restore forests, and reverse the environmental damage. “Awareness must be coupled with concrete action,” Konuma added. FAO is calling on member countries to implement sustainable forest management policies without further delay. “About 17.4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation and forest degradation. By reducing or eliminating deforestation and forest degradation, forests offer the quickest, most cost-effective and largest means of decreasing global emissions.”
Forests in Asia and the Pacific have achieved a net expansion in recent years, but this is largely due to an afforestation programme in China, whereas there is an overall decline in natural forest land, much of it cleared for illegal logging and other forms of economic activity. Natural forests are home to the complex biodiversity of species of plants and animals that make our planet thrive.
Participants in the debate were drawn from two tertiary educational institutes and two Bangkok high schools. The elder group of students debated the pros and cons of whether ‘keeping people out of the forests’ is the best approach in order to better protect the natural environment of forests, while the students from the two international secondary schools debated a proposition ‘that trees should be preserved, not logged.’
The co-organizers of the event noted that sustainable forest management will require a carefully coordinated approach.
“To reverse the current loss and unlock the full potential of forests, UNEP is supporting the transformation of the forest sector,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Regional Director & Representative for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP. “The scale of moving away from business-as-usual to a Green Economy is enormous, and beyond the capacity of any individual organization.”
The Executive Director of RECOFTC, Tint Lwin Thaung, called on the participants in the debate and others “to take the initiative to work toward securing not only more forests under community management - but good quality forests - so that we can progress toward the goal of empowering local people to effectively and equitably engage in the sustainable management of forested landscapes."
The participants in the debate came from Asian Institute of Technology, King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Anglo Singapore International School and Garden International School.