Protecting and sustainably managing the planet's forests is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Committee on Forestry meeting at FAO seeks to accelerate global efforts

16 July 2018, Rome - Senior government officials from around the world today gathered at FAO to focus on ways to step up global efforts in the forestry sector aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  

"Urgent action is needed to sustain and preserve the planet's forests in order to achieve our global goals," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a video message to the opening of the week-long Committee on Forestry meeting.

He cited FAO's recently released report, The State of the World's Forests 2018, which provides a thorough analysis of the linkages between the SDGs and forests and which stresses that "food security, agriculture and forests can no longer be addressed in isolation one from another."

In particular, Graziano da Silva noted that achieving SDG 15, especially halting deforestation  and restoring degraded forests by 2020, "requires urgent action now" and that "best practices and tools are available, but their application must be scaled up and progress accelerated".   

The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, in his keynote speech, noted that a couple of centuries ago, some 50 percent of the land area in his country was covered by forest, but that this has dwindled to around 29 percent of the total, with negative environmental impacts, including affecting rainfall patterns and increasing soil erosion.

"Sri Lanka is now highly committed to conserve existing forest cover and to increase it to 32 percent (of the total land area) by adopting better practices to improve land governance as a key to achieve the SDG target," President Sirisena said.

The crucial role of forests and trees

Forests and trees make crucial contributions to food security, provision of drinking water, renewable energy and rural economies.  They provide around 20 percent of income for rural households in developing countries - notably more in many areas - and fuel for cooking and heating for one in every three people around the world.

Forests are essential for meeting the 2030 Agenda objectives ranging from tackling climate change to conserving biodiversity, reducing inequalities and improving urban habitats.

FAO in the State of the World's Forests 2018 report emphasizes the importance of clear legal frameworks regarding forest tenure rights, welcomes the growing trend to strengthen local governance, and calls for effective partnerships and private sector engagement to pursue sustainable goals.

Participants at the Committee on Forestry meeting, through the main programme and a series of World Forest Week side events will seek to identify emerging policy and technical issues affecting the forest sector. These include halting deforestation, managing forests sustainably, restoring degraded forests and adding to worldwide tree cover. Among others, they will discuss actions related to the contributions of forests to food security and nutrition, including within the context of climate change.

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena delivers the keynote speech at the Committee on Forestry meeting.