THEME OF WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2011
Forests: Nature At Your Service
Forests cover one third of the earth’s land mass, performing vital functions and services around the world which make our planet alive with possibilities. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against climate change, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere while storing carbon dioxide.
Forests feed our rivers and are essential to supplying the water for nearly 50% of our largest cities. They create and maintain soil fertility; they help to regulate the often devastating impact of storms, floods and fires.
Splendid and inspiring, forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, and are home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
Forests also provide shelter, jobs, security and cultural relevance for forest-dependent populations. They are the green lungs of the earth, vital to the survival of people everywhere — all seven billion of us.
Forests embody so much of what is good and strong in our lives. Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to live and breathe.
Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate — every year, 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed. That’s equal to the size of Portugal.
Short-term investments for immediate gains (e.g., logging) compound these losses. People who depend on forests for their livelihoods are struggling to survive. Many precious species face extinction. Biodiversity is being obliterated. What’s more, economists around the world have proven that by not integrating the values of forests into their budgets, countries and businesses are paying a high price. One that ultimately impoverishes us all as harm to our forest life-support system continues each and every single day.
But this trend is not irreversible. It’s not too late to transform life as we know it into a greener future where forests are at the heart of our sustainable development and green economies.
Conserving forests and expanding them need to be recognized as a business opportunity. When we add it up, an investment of US$30 billion fighting deforestation and degradation could provide a return of US$2.5 trillion in new products and services.
Furthermore, targeted investments in forestry could generate up to 10 million new jobs around the world. Already, many leaders are glimpsing the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets, but for transformation to happen, forests need to become a universal political priority.
The services forests provide are essentially to every aspect of our quality of life. And the answer to sustainable forest management, moving towards a green economy, lies in our hands.
Doesn’t knowing this make it so much easier to see the forest from the trees!
International Year of Forests – “Celebrating Forests for People”
Statement by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director
2011 is the International Year of Forests (IYF) and celebrations will officially be launched today during the 9th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests in New York.
This Year, which comes in the wake of the International Year of Biodiversity, represents an opportunity for evolving our work on sustainable forestry to a higher plain.
Forests are an issue with essential links to livelihoods, addressing climate change and other environmental challenges; the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development as a whole.
This is in part why forests are a key sector within UNEP’s Green Economy work – a landmark report which will be launched at the upcoming Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) – as we work to strengthen all three pillars of sustainable development on the Road to Rio+20 taking place in May next year.
Forests represent many things to many people including spiritual, aesthetic and cultural dimensions that are, in many ways, priceless. But they are also cornerstones of our economies, whose real value has all too often been invisible in national accounts of profit and loss.
This mismatch between reality and perception emerged with full force in The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) work.
It estimates that deforestation and forest degradation are likely costing the global economy between US$2.5 and US$4.5 trillion a year, more than the losses of the recent and ongoing financial crisis.