This week I was at the UN Forum on Forests meeting in New York where the International Year of the Forests was formally launched.
The Year of the Forests starts with a cautiously optimistic message: FAO’s report on the State of the World’s Forests released at the forum says that the forest loss across the world has slowed down over the last decade. Now the pattern of deforestation varies and is country-specific rather than being negative across the board. China, Vietnam and Costa Rica among others are countries where the forest cover is actually going up.
More importantly, I see an opening in how the problems of deforestation and forest degradation are being addressed internationally. Like the logo of the International Year of Forests, people are seen at the heart of this effort now. This has not always been the norm. Take the case of REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which was debated in Bali at the first Forest Day in 2007. At that time, reducing emissions meant simply putting up fences to conserve the last pristine forests in the Amazon, the Congo basin and in Indonesia.
Now our understanding of how to address deforestation has evolved. Forests today are more strongly linked in people’s minds to questions of food security, improved livelihoods and the general resilience of the people. This is where REDD + comes in, with approaches that go beyond restrictive approaches and focus now more and more on approaches to enhance forest stocks and restore degraded landscapes. It is good news for people and forests that the role of forests in climate change mitigation is being understood in a much broader context.
10-year-old Felix Finkbeiner speaks at the United Nations Forum on Forests. Watch the full speech here.