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Forests and the global economy: 10 million new jobs

Sustainable forest management could become a means of creating millions of new green jobs

Photo: ©FAO/R.Faidutti
Sustainable forest management could become a means of creating millions of green jobs.
10 March 2009, Rome - Ten million new “green jobs” can be created by investing in sustainable forest management, according to FAO. “As more jobs are lost due to the current economic downturn, sustainable forest management could become a means of creating millions of green jobs, thus helping to reduce poverty and improve the environment,” said Jan Heino, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Forestry Department.
Since forests and trees are vital storehouses of carbon, such an investment could also make a major contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, said Heino. 

According to a recent study by the International Labour Organization, unemployment worldwide could increase from 179 million in 2007 to 198 million in 2009 under the best case scenario; under the worst case scenario, it could go as high as 230 million.  

Increased investment in forestry could provide jobs in forest management, agroforestry and farm forestry, improved fire management, development and management of trails and recreation sites, expansion of urban green spaces, restoring degraded forests and planting new ones. Activities can be tailored to local circumstances, including availability of labour, skill levels and local social, economic and ecological conditions. 

A number of countries, for example the United States and the Republic of Korea, have included forestry in their economic stimulus plans. Similarly afforestation is an important component of India’s rural employment guarantee programme. According to FAO, the global potential is at least 10 million new jobs through national investments.

At the same time, improved forest management and new tree planting could significantly reduce the downward trend in forest cover reported by many countries. This would help to reduce carbon emissions from land-use change and could potentially have a larger positive impact on climate change than any other initiative currently being planned or considered by world leaders. 

How sustainable forest management can help build a green future and meet society’s changing demand for forest-derived goods and services will be the main thrust of World Forest Week, to be held in conjunction with FAO’s Committee on Forestry, 16 to 20 March in Rome. Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, will deliver the keynote address. She will emphasize the critical role of forests in society’s response to the challenges posed by climate change.
 
The meeting takes place against the backdrop of an unprecedented global economic crisis. The forest sector has also been affected severely, notes FAO’s State of the World’s Forests 2009, to be released on 16 March 2009. However, the forest sector has considerable potential to play a catalytic role in the world’s response to the global economic and environmental crises.