International Day of Forests: Experts highlight critical role of forests for SDGs, climate change

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BOGOR, Indonesia — Forests are essential in global efforts to fight climate change and ensure a sustainable future, say experts who point to a growing body of scientific knowledge to help countries meet these goals.

Ahead of International Day of Forests (Saturday, 21 March), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is highlighting the importance of forests in a crucial year for the UN-backed frameworks that will guide humanity’s response to climate change and sustainable development.

Media are invited to reprint or embed the following stories and videos:

  • IDOF-PH-playVideo interview with CIFOR Director General Dr. Peter Holmgren and Dr. Louis Verchot, Director of CIFOR’s Environment Program, on the critical challenges and opportunities facing the forestry sector.



  • Feature story: It’s a forest, not a ‘museum’: What sustainable development means in the tropics
  • Feature story: Sustainable Development Goals and forestry: Lessons from Peru

“We have an opportunity this year to say that forestry is not only about the environment: Forestry can contribute to eliminate poverty, to food security, to prosperity in the green economy, to energy, and so on,” Holmgren said.

In September in New York, the UN will finalize a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to provide a pathway for all countries to a future that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. And in Paris this December, countries will negotiate a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Under these frameworks, countries will need to take both sustainability and climate change into account when they plan their future development, and come up with plans of action to address the goals set out under these new agreements. That can’t be done without thinking seriously about forests, which cut across nearly every level of human activity.

“Forestry is an economic activity, first and foremost,” said Verchot. “It contributes significantly to rural livelihoods. It contributes to sustainable development. And, as we’ve seen in the climate change agenda, forestry is one of the areas where the world is actually making progress.”

Take Brazil: In one of the few success stories in global climate change mitigation, Brazil slashed its emissions by around 40 percent from 1990 levels—almost entirely through a concerted, national effort to tackle deforestation. Between 2004 and 2012, Brazil reduced the deforestation rate in the Amazon by 76 percent, and while recent reports suggest Amazon deforestation is creeping up again, it’s an effort that makes Brazil the single largest contributor to climate change mitigation.

Forests have a similarly important role in assuring sustainable development. Even though forests are mentioned specifically in only one of the 17 draft Sustainable Development Goals, they are highly relevant to almost all of them.

“Forests are going to be integral to achieving a number of these objectives, whether it’s poverty reduction or access to clean water supplies or maintaining agricultural productivity – so in their planning they can’t just think about forests in isolation, they have to think how do these goals get met most effectively in multifunctional landscapes,” Verchot said.

“There is science there that can help countries make informed choices and good political choices about the trade-offs, and there is an international and national scientific community that’s there ready to support them with information and analysis to help them make the best decisions possible.”


All stories, videos and photos related to this book were produced with Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike License. Media are welcome to use all content as long as it is attributed correctly to CIFOR.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is a non-profit, scientific facility that conducts research on the most pressing challenges of forest and landscapes management around the world. With our global, multidisciplinary approach, we aim to improve human well-being, protect the environment, and increase equity. To do so, we help policymakers, practitioners and communities make decisions based on solid science about how they use and manage their forests and landscapes.

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