How do forests and trees in the urban environment influence human health and well-being? This was the subject of a symposium held by the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) which also served as a research conference for the European Commission–funded COST (Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) action programme on urban forestry for human health and well-being (COST Action E39; for more information, see page 58 of this issue). The symposium, held in Copenhagen, Denmark from 28 to 30 June 2006, was jointly organized by Forest & Landscape Denmark (an independent centre at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University of Denmark), the Chinese Academy of Forestry, Turku University (Finland) and the Forest Research Institute Malaysia.
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), initiated in 1996, is an informal process of dialogue and cooperation that brings together the 25 member countries of the European Union with 13 Asian countries. Leaders of ASEM countries meet at biennial summits intended to strengthen partnership between the two regions on political, economic and cultural issues. At the third ASEM summit in 2000, the leaders endorsed a proposal to cooperate on forest issues.
The Copenhagen meeting focused on six topic areas:
At the end of the discussions, the participants issued the Copenhagen Declaration, which sets goals, priorities and concrete follow-up actions for continued cooperation. A mission statement was adopted for the ASEM Urban Forestry initiative, and participants committed to establish, by 2007, the ASEM Urban Forestry Academy, an organizational and financial platform for promoting urban forestry cooperation among ASEM countries through such activities as exchange of policy information, twinning of European and Asian cities and research institutions, and education and training projects.
This was the second ASEM symposium on urban forestry; the first was held in China in 2004. Two ASEM symposia have also been held on forest conservation and sustainable development (China, 2001 and Thailand, 2002). A third ASEM Urban Forestry Symposium will be held in China in 2008.
The first principle of the Rio Declaration, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment in Development in 1992, states that: “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature”. A colloquium for French-speaking countries provided an opportunity to consider measures for ensuring success in applying this principle.
“Development, Environment and Health” was the theme of the eleventh international colloquium organized by the Secrétariat international francophone pour l’évaluation environnementale (SIFÉE). The event, held from 12 to 16 June 2006 in Bamako, Mali, was supported by the Institut de l’énergie et de l’environnement de la francophonie (IEPF), the Mali Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and several other partners.
The meeting brought together specialists in environmental and public health and sustainable development, local technical consultants, representatives from industry and agriculture, policy-makers, researchers and academics from 18 countries, mainly in Africa. The main theme was how to manage ecosystems to improve human health. The colloquium addressed two angles in particular: the impact of human activities on the environment, and the impact of the environment on human health. Tools and means were proposed for monitoring and assessing these impacts under diverse conditions, including crisis situations (risk analysis, emergency plans, etc.). The meeting examined potential policy interventions at different levels, from local to global, for integrating human health and ecosystems.
Although the meeting emphasized issues related to agricultural and urban environments, a subtheme on conservation and valorization of natural resources covered such forest-related subjects as the role of plants in traditional medicine (including a case study on the gallery forest of the biosphere reserve of La Mare aux Hippopotames in Burkina Faso), health concerns in the economic evaluation of mangroves in southern Benin, the transfer of tapia (Uapaca bojeri) forest management responsibilities to local communities in Madagascar, and the relation between climate change and health.
The final day began with a tree planting ceremony at the Parc des hôtes.
SIFÉE is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1996 and currently based in Montreal, Canada, which brings together practitioners and organizations concerned with environmental assessment from all French-speaking regions.
Frances Seymour took up her post as the new Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in late August 2006, assuming the leadership of CIFOR’s global activities in support of the sustainable use of forest resources to fight poverty and protect the environment in tropical Asia, Africa, and Latin America. She replaces David Kaimowitz, who stepped down after five years at the helm of the organization. Seymour was appointed in June following an extensive international search which attracted 80 candidates from 36 countries.
Before joining CIFOR, Frances Seymour was the Director of the Institutions and Governance Program of the World Resources Institute. She previously worked for the World Wildlife Fund, the Ford Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development, acquiring experience in several tropical countries. One of her central concerns is that research be made relevant to policy-makers and practitioners.
Climate change negotiations have tended to overlook greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, where some 35 percent of emissions – and fully 65 percent in the least developed countries – are caused by deforestation.
About 200 experts, mostly from developing countries, simultaneously addressed two of the key environmental issues – deforestation and global warming – in the Workshop on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries, organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at FAO headquarters in Rome from 30 August to 1 September 2006.
Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the carbon dioxide they store escapes back into the air. According to FAO figures, some 13 million hectares of forests worldwide are lost every year, with most of this area in the tropics. More than three-quarters of the world’s deforestation is a result of increased farmland to feed growing populations. Part of the solution is to increase agricultural productivity so that there will be less demand to convert forests into farmland.
The unusually high participation in the workshop was a clear sign that developing countries are ready to begin reducing their emissions from land use changes and that international processes addressing climate change are furthering their role in the global effort to reduce deforestation. Participants from 46 developing countries signalled their readiness to act on deforestation. But they also stressed financial help from the developed world is needed to do the job. A major flow of capital from developed to developing countries, under new instruments yet to be negotiated, would be required to help the developing countries conserve their forests. Such financing could take the form of carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which governs greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources in developed countries. It could also come directly under UNFCCC or from bilateral agreements between donors and developing countries on country-wide forest conservation projects. The workshop proposed several new mechanisms for transfer of payments from developed to developing countries. Negotiations will continue at a second workshop to be held in 2007.
The workshop was held at the request of the eleventh Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC and was hosted by the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory and FAO, with financial support from FAO and the Governments of Australia, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden.
The report (available at unfccc.int/resource/docs/2006/sbsta/eng/10.pdf) will be presented at the twenty-fifth session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).
Yvo de Boer took up duty as the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 4 September 2006. A national of the Netherlands, de Boer was formerly the Director for International Affairs at the Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. He has been active in UNFCCC meetings since 1996. Before serving the Netherlands Government, de Boer was Chief of the Information Office for North America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) in Canada and its Human Settlements Adviser in Nairobi, Kenya.
Traditional knowledge has contributed much to sustainable forest management, but scientific practice has not benefited from traditional practices as much as it could. The International Conference on Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Forest Management: the Role of Traditional Knowledge, held from 8 to 11 June 2006 in Florence, Italy, aimed to encourage improved information exchange among scientists, holders of traditional knowledge, and forest and landscape planners, managers and decision-makers. The conference was organized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Task Force on Traditional Forest Knowledge and was supported by the Italian Academy of Forestry Science, the University of Florence, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the Liaison Unit of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE).
The theme of the conference reflected the significant overlap of interests between the holders and users of traditional forest knowledge and a number of policy and planning issues and initiatives within Europe and the global forest policy community. These relate to:
The meeting attracted 120 participants from 24 countries, including forest scientists, forest managers and planners, forest policy experts and representatives from numerous international organizations. Discussions addressed the history and conservation of traditional forest knowledge and its relation to forest management, and the integration of traditional knowledge in forestry education and research.
The discussions will contribute to efforts to address the cultural and social dimensions of sustainable forest management in national forest programmes, as well as to the development of specific indicators concerning cultural values for MCPFE’s set of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
In April and May 2006, the Armenia Tree Project planted about 340 000 trees in the Getik River Valley of Armenia, bringing the number of trees planted by this non-governmental organization since 2004 to 1.3 million. About 160 hectares of land, mainly degraded hillsides, have been reforested with indigenous tree species including chestnut (Castanea spp.), maple (Acer spp.), ash (Fraxinus spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), wild apple (Malus spp.) and wild pear (Pyrus spp.).
The project provides work to villagers and outsources the raising of seedlings to family backyard nurseries, thus contributing to improving the livelihoods of the local population. What started as a pilot project in 2004 with a backyard nursery programme in a single village has now expanded to many more villages and provides a stable income for 330 families. Thus the campaign has not only helped to reforest the degraded mountains around the villages, but has also addressed the root cause of deforestation, poverty.
Founded in 1994, the Armenia Tree Project aims to assist the country’s socio-economic development through mobilization of resources to fund reforestation, environmental education and rural development through job creation.