Collaborative Partnership on Forests presents the role of forests in a time of crisis at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

Guatemala nursery (c) Luciano Capelli

06 July 2021, Rome – At an event of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) highlighted the importance of forests during periods of crisis and showcased how responsible consumption and production can contribute to turning the tide on deforestation.

“The recovery from the pandemic must become our chance to change course,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Maria Francesca Spatolisano from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). “With smart policies and the right investments, we must chart a path that can revive economies, build resilience and turn the tide on deforestation. The time has come to integrate forests and other ecosystems into all economic decisions to ensure a sustainable future for all,” she highlighted in her keynote speech.

All people depend upon the forests and the benefits they provide. They provide not only essential services such as clean air and water, carbon sequestration and habitats for most of the terrestrial biodiversity but also numerous products for our everyday life. Sustainable production of these are crucial to halt deforestation and maintain the functioning forests we have.

We are still losing an area twice the size of Costa Rica annually due to deforestation. Africa currently has the highest net loss of forest area, which is primarily caused by small-scale subsistence agriculture.

Mette Wilkie, Chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and Director of the FAO Forestry Division noted that feeding humanity and conserving forest ecosystems are complementary and interdependent goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Wilkie also explained that to halt agricultural expansion into forests we need transform our food systems, balance conservation and sustainable use and repair the damage we have done.

“We must take bold action to reverse the loss of forests and their biodiversity for the benefit of people and the planet”, said Wilkie.

Among the activities needed to help halt deforestation are reducing food loss and waste, implementing sustainable intensification and production practices, restoring the productivity of degraded land and embracing healthier diets and responsible production and consumption patterns.

“It is important to address poverty and provide incentives to communities settled in current deforestation hotspots in order to trigger economic and social benefits and provide them with alternatives to deforestation,” said Dirk Schattschneider, Deputy Director General, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany.

This view was echoed by Esther Nana Ama Asante, Project Officer, Kokoo Pa Farmers Association, Ghana, who underlined the need to approach the issue from small producers’ points of view, for example when addressing a deforestation-free cocoa supply chain in Ghana.

Sheam Satkuru, Director of Operations, International Tropical Timber Organization, highlighted the importance of involving both the private sector and smallholders in large-scale initiatives such as market-based activities and forest landscape restoration. Satkuru also noted the importance of initiatives such as Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World to boost sustainable consumption together with sustainable production of legal and sustainably produced wood products focusing on legality, sustainability governance and traceability of wood products. “Sustainable production and consumption will complement circular economy approaches to generate income and provide socio-economic benefits, while ensuring the enhanced value of forests,” Satkuru said.

With the 2021 launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, countries as well as the private sector have pledged more than 1 billion hectares of degraded land for restoration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a breakdown in the essential relationship between humans and nature. It has added urgency to efforts that tackle poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss and inequality to address deforestation causes. But there has also been something unexpected and positive to come out of the pandemic, which is a greater awareness of the need for sustainability and the need to change production processes and consumption in ways that can improve human health and promote a greener, fairer economy, the event heard.

The High-level Political Forum in 2021 links this discussion with the complementary Sustainable Development Goals 1 on no poverty, 2 on zero hunger, 3 on good health and well-being, 8 on decent work and economic growth, 10 on reduced inequalities, 12 on responsible consumption and production, 13 on climate action, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on partnerships in depth.

The event, The role of forests in time of crisis: sustainable production and consumption patterns to turn the tide on deforestation, featured a panel discussion, which was moderated by Musonda Mumba, Vice-Chair of CPF and Director of the Rome Centre for Sustainable Development Nature, Climate and Energy, UNDP.