UNFF8 Discusses Role of Forests in Future Climate Change Regime

L-R: Jan McAlpine, UNFF Director; Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Boen M. Purnama, UNFF8 Chair21 April 2009: Climate change featured heavily on the agenda of the second day of deliberations at the eighth session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF8), currently convening at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The central focus of the discussion was the role of forests in a future climate regime.

Many delegates and invited speakers throughout the day stressed that sustainable forest management (SFM), as a holistic approach that considers forests' many values besides their use as carbon sinks, needs to be included in any future climate agreement. Jan Heino, Assistant Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), stressed the need to keep “sending this message to the [climate] negotiators,” and many delegates concurred.

During the day, a panel discussion was held on forests and biodiversity, climate change and desertification. Among the speakers, Maria Sanz-Sanchez, Programme Officer, UNFCCC, delivered a message on behalf of Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC. She underlined that SFM was recognized by UNFCCC States parties as an important vehicle for realizing the full potential of the forest sector and stressed the need for coordination among key national stakeholders in order to ensure efficient coordination at the international level. She concluded by noting that action taken in the forest sector to combat and adapt to climate change would also lead to forest protection and raise awareness of their value.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), underscored that SFM is at the heart of possible solutions to many of the challenges that the world faces, including the economic crisis, climate change, biodiversity loss and continued poverty. He also highlighted the conclusions of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change regarding forest-based climate-response activities and their links with biodiversity.

Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), noted that the primary objective of creating synergies between sustainable land management (SLM) and SFM is to improve the condition of degraded ecosystems. He stressed that areas of potential cooperation include: knowledge management; mainstreaming SLM and SFM at the regional and country level; and the setting of targets and formulation of incentive mechanisms to promote the conservation and improvement of drylands. [UN Press Release, 20 April 2009] [UN Press Release, 21 April 2009] [CBD statement] [IISD RS coverage]