Urgent global and European “wood-forest-policy” challenge

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Modern national governances, among already existing global challenges, are facing another one which is spreading through the present decade: it is about deforestation, the challenge included into the UNEP’s “global forest plan” highlighting states’ contributions to scaling-up forest conservation/management projects and the states’ efforts in preventing deforestation. 

Forest-related programs encompass multiple contributions of forests and the forest sector to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both in the world and in the EU-27. This decades’ deforestation priority is a timely response to pledges made at the COP-26 meeting last year by 141 countries to end deforestation by 2030: the initiative is based on community-led, wildlife-centered model that utilizes the so-called REDD+ mechanism, an UN-envisioned climate change mitigation strategy.
Policymakers, business community and social partners have to include in their actions an urgent need to protect both existing and threatened forests that are essential to solving the climate and biodiversity crises. A transformative national “wood-forest-policy” will feature modern insights from scientists, conservation experts, forest community members, etc. in order to compose feasible and sustainable forestry use.

Global “forest plan”
The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 provides a global framework for action at all levels to sustainably manage all types of forests and trees outside forests, and to halt deforestation and forest degradation. The historic agreement on the Strategic Plan was forged at a special session of the United Nations Forum on Forests in January 2017 (subsequently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2017).
At the heart of the Strategic Plan are six Global Forest Goals and 26 associated targets to be achieved by 2030. These goals and targets, set out in this concise publication, fully encompass and build on the solid foundation provided by the four Global Objectives on Forests included in the United Nations Forest Instrument.
Main reference to: Global Forest Goals and Targets: UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030, in: https://www.un.org/esa/forests/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Global-Forest-Goals-booklet-Apr-2019.pdf (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA, April 2019)

Among main goals and objective are the following:
= All types of forests and trees outside forests have to be sustainably managed; the direction shall contribute to sustainable development while providing economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations.
= Sustainable forest management shall be promoted, and contribution of forests and trees to reaching SDGs shall be increased, including by strengthening cooperation, coordination, coherence, synergies and political commitment and action at all levels.

Six global forest goals and targets
= The first goal in the strategy is formulated in the following way: “to reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide through sustainable forest management, including protection, restoration, afforestation and reforestation, and increase efforts to prevent forest degradation and contribute to the global effort of addressing climate change”. Thus, the following targets in the 1st goal are predicted regarding “forests cover”: a) forest area is increased by 3 per cent worldwide, and b) the world’s forest carbon stocks shall be maintained and/or enhanced.
Besides, forests cover about 30 percent of the Earth’s land area, which equals to about 4 billion hectares; – 93 percent of the worlds forest area is natural forests; – net deforestation has slowed down globally by over 50 percent during last few decades (all three on SDG-15);- forests act as “carbon sinks”, absorbing about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year (SDG-13).

= The second goal in the strategy (so-called “forest’s provisions”) is towards enhancing forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, and improving living conditions of forest-dependent people.
Generally, about 1,6 billion people depend on forests for timber, food, fuel, jobs, leisure and shelter; besides, 25 percent of forests in the world are managed for the protection of soil and water; -75 percent of peoples’ fresh water globally comes from forest watershed areas (SDG-6, clean water and sanitation).

= The third goal is, generally, aimed at increasing significantly the area of protected forests worldwide and other areas of sustainably managed forests, as well as the proportion of forest products from sustainably managed forests. Thus, about 80 percent of terrestrial species live in forests; forests and trees support livelihood of about 2,5 billion people in smallholder agriculture; however, only 17 percent of the world forests are within legally-established protected areas; but over 2,5 billion people use wood for cooking, boiling water and heating (SDG-7, affordable and clean energy).

= The fourth goal is oriented towards sustainable forest management and strengthening global scientific and technical cooperation. Several SDGs are included in this goal: e.g. over the past 15 years about $8,6 billion was allocated for global forestry development (SDG-17, partnerships for the goals), – about 2/3 of cancer-fighting medicines come from rain-forest plants, worth around $108 billion a year (SDG-3, good health and wellbeing); – nature-based tourism accounts for about 20 percent of the global tourism industry (SDG-8); – about 40 percent of extreme poor in rural areas live in forests and savannas (SDG-1, no poverty).

= The fifth goal is about national governance framework for the “forest sustainability’s management”, i.e. the following SDG are involved: – globally, 76 million tons of food comes from forests, of which 95 percent is plant-based (SDG-2, zero-hunger); – about 1/3 of the world’s largest cities draw drinking water from forest watersheds (SDG-11, sustainable cities and communities); – about 40 percent of existing renewable sources are forest-based, i.e. solar, wind and hydroelectricity (SDG-7, affordable and clean energy); – about 1,5 billion local and indigenous people have community-based tenure over forest resources (SDG-16).

= The sixth goal, is aimed at the “forest stewardship”; it is based on the following priorities, which are in line with the following global SDGs: – about 76 percent of the world’s forests, an area of 3 billion hectares, is publicly owned (SDG-15, life on land); – by 2050, the world’s population could reach 10 billion, requiring more forest products and services (SDG-12, responsible consumption and production); – 850 million people collected fuel wood or produce charcoal, and 83 percent are women (SDG-5, gender equality; – trees and plants clean our air, reduce stress and noise, improve health and build sustainable urban communities (SDG-11, sustainable cities and communities).
All references to the web-link at: https://www.un.org/esa/forests/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Global-Forest-Goals-booklet-Apr-2019.pdf

European scene
Forest area in Europe has increased since 1990 by 17 million hectares, of which more than half are planted forests; continental forest area has increased by 9% in the last three decades. But climate change and growing demand for sustainable solutions put forests under pressure. Today, European forests cover 227 million hectares, which is more than a third of the surface area of the European continent. The EU policies for achieving the SDGs provide solutions for progress: according to researchers, managed sustainably, forests can play a vital role in climate and biodiversity protection. In addition to providing a kind of “ecosystem services” forests also contribute to climate neutrality by protecting soils and water resources resulting in increasing livelihoods and well-being of rural and urban communities.
The State of Europe’s Forests 2020 report acknowledged that about 35% of Europe’s land is covered by forests, and forest area is slowly but constantly increasing. However, about 3% of European forests are damaged as a result of windstorms, insect outbreaks, browsing and fires. However, forests represent a strong economic resource in some EU states (e.g. in Latvia it is the second item in export revenues); there are about € 4 billion non-wood forest products only: it includes cork, Christmas trees, nuts, berries, mushrooms, wild meat and honey.
About 24 % of Europe’s forests are protected: there are 31 million ha with the main objective of conserving biodiversity, protecting landscapes and specific natural elements; about 70% of forests are available for public recreation and in majority of EU countries, more than 90% of forests are accessible to the public.

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