Causes of Forest Degradation
- Lack of secure land tenure patterns
- Inadequate recognition within national laws and jurisdiction of the rights and needs of forest-dependent indigenous and local communities
- Inadequate cross-sectoral policies
- Under valuation of forest products and ecosystem services;
- Lack of participation
- Lack of good governance
- Absence of a supportive economic climate that facilitates sustainable forest management;
- Illegal trade
- Lack of capacity
- Lack of an enabling environment, at both the national and international levels
- National policies that distort markets and encourage the conversion of forest land to other uses
Strategies for the future
Strategies for realizing forests’ potential contribution to a sustainable future include improving the quality and quantity of forests by planting trees and investing in ecosystem services, promoting small and medium forestbased enterprises to reduce rural poverty and improve equity, increasing the long-term value of wood products by reusing and recycling them and using wood for energy, and enhancing communication and linkages across the physical and institutional landscape.
Planting trees and investing in ecosystem services
Planting trees is often the quickest and most effective way of producing new biomass, thus helping to offset the loss of carbon resulting from deforestation or forest degradation. Investing in new carbon stocks has great potential to make a significant, fast and measurable impact on climate change without requiring sweeping changes in policies, cultures or national economies. Several developing countries, notably in Asia, have demonstrated that major investments in planted forests can reverse the trend towards deforestation and result in a net increase in forest area.
The UNEP report Towards a green economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication (the Green Economy Report; UNEP, 2011) calls for investments in reforestation of USD 22 billion per annum over the next 40 years. This level of reforestation would certainly increase the sequestration of carbon in woody biomass, and may be large enough to have an impact on climate change. Planted forests must be designed for local conditions; the trees must be appropriate, ideally native species; and planting programmes must take local cultures and economic conditions into account.
Protecting and enhancing ecosystem services from existing forests can be a powerful complement to establishing new forests and planting trees outside forests. Forest landholders can be rewarded for maintaining healthy forests and encouraged to restore other forests through payments for forest-based ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, providing clean water or conserving biodiversity. Several countries have implemented small-scale programmes that demonstrate the effectiveness of such efforts. In one example, forest owners receive payments for managing forested watersheds in ways that reduce the cost of generating electricity from hydropower. Payments for the ecosystem services of forests can be used to create new forests and enhance the quality of existing forests. REDD is one of the most widely discussed and promising examples of such payments.
REDD a “game changer”
The opportunity to receive payments for reduced deforestation through carbon emission trading is a “game changer” because it represents the international community’s first attempt to develop a global mechanism that recognizes non-market values from forests – in this instance the contribution to mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.
Promoting small and medium forest-based enterprises
Forest-dependent people and communities continue to be among the poorest in the world; however, small-scale projects that help to promote small and medium forest enterprises have been successful in reducing poverty, improving equity and helping to protect forests and other natural resources. Undertaking these approaches on a larger scale could therefore contribute to national efforts to stimulate employment and strengthen livelihoods; at the regional and global scales, these efforts could play an important role in combating deforestation and forest degradation and slowing the pace of climate change. A policy and institutional environment that is “friendly” to reverse the trend towards deforestation and result in a net increase in forest area.
Trees sequester carbon, regardless of their location, so they may be planted on farmland and rangeland and in cities: outside the “forest” as officially defined by FAO. Agroforestry – incorporating trees into farms – is an essential component of global efforts both to enhance rural livelihoods and to mitigate climate change. A total of more than 1 billion hectares of agricultural land – half of the world’s farmland – currently has tree cover of more than 10 percent. Farm forestry contributes up to 40 percent of farm income through the harvesting of wood, fruits, oils and medicines from trees.
Trees can also provide fodder for livestock, help enhance soil fertility, and provide environmental benefits such as clean water, soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity. Trees add both market and non-market value to rangelands.
In cities, trees provide ecosystem services: shade from heat, shelter from wind, absorption of pollution, and creation of urban biodiversity. Urban trees also have aesthetic benefits and add value to property.
Using wood for energy and reusing and recycling wood products
The energy sector is responsible for more than half of anthropogenic GHG emissions; however, when managed properly, the production of electricity by burning wood instead of coal can reduce GHG emissions by up to 98 percent when the entire life cycle is taken into consideration. Increasing the use of renewable energy, including wood-based fuels, relative to fossil fuels may therefore be one of the most important components of a global transition to a sustainable economy.
Combustible renewables and waste currently account for about 10 percent of the world’s energy production. This includes the wood energy used by households in developing countries that include promoting the use of efficient and clean burning devices and providing training in efficient, sustainable and legal charcoal production, to improve energy efficiency and reduce pressure on natural resources.
Increased use of wood for energy will also present challenges to existing users of forests and forest resources. Policies for increasing the demand for woodfuels must therefore be accompanied by good forest policies and effective institutions to implement them.
Governments can also pursue climate- and forest-friendly policies by encouraging greater recycling of wood-based products. Wood products, notably paper and paperboard, have been recycled for decades; every year more than 200 million tonnes of paper is recovered and recycled, accounting for roughly half of total consumption.
Enhancing communication andcoordinating development
Ensuring effective collaboration among donors and government agencies in developing countries is a prerequisite for improving the governance, monitoring, assessment and management of forests. To maximize forests’ contributions to a sustainable future, policies, programmes and investments in forests must be taken into account in relation to other sectors. Notable areas for better communication and partnerships include the following:
FinanceFor the banking sector, pension funds, endowments, foundations and insurance companies, forests and forestry are increasingly attractive assets in which to invest.
Other sectors within the landscape: Traditionally, foresters have focused on sustainable management of the forest estate. However, there is increasing recognition that forests must be managed as part of the broad mosaic of land uses in the social, environmental and economic landscape. For example, in an integrated landscape approach, forests, water and energy would be considered holistically, rather than being treated as discreet economic sectors.
Research and education: Agricultural research in low-income economies continues to be the most productive investment in support of the agriculture sector, followed by education, infrastructure and input credits. Public and private investment in forestry research is also needed, and will also yield high returns.
Wood as an integral part of culture and tradition
A challenge for the proponents of a green economy is to find ways of equitably rewarding the skills and creativity of rural people who carve wood and make handicrafts. These often informal industries provide full or partial employment to an estimated 100 million artisans and semi-skilled labourers. In recent years, the plight of these families has worsened in countries that have restricted the collection of wood and other raw materials from forests. The policy needs to be reviewed to support this small scale enterprise.
Small wood product enterprises
Wood and wood products will make increasingly important contributions to a greener economy and more sustainable development. Realizing this potential requires overcoming several hurdles:
- Misinformation about the destruction of tropical forests caused by the increased use of wood must be overcome.
- Local entrepreneurs need to learn how to obtain access to global markets. There must be more involvement further up the value chain, with greater production of quality wood materials for niche markets. It may be necessary to organize this highly decentralized industry on a country-by-country basis, through such approaches as product standardization, segmentation and market development.
- There is a need for policies that support and encourage improved marketing, including the development of cooperatives.
- Proactive policies that promote tree growing on private lands and sustainable forest management practices on all lands are also necessary. Forest products in a sustainable future
Wood products are manufactured from renewable raw material; they are reusable and biodegradable, and they continue to store carbon throughout their lifetime in timber harvesting, manufacturing and consumption. There is already evidence of considerable progress in wood product industries. Examples include:
- use of small-scale equipment and low-impact practices in logging operations
- wood-saving manufacturing equipment (thin blades) and technologies (laser guides), and complete utilization of wood raw materials, including through the use of waste to generate heat and power
- product developments that utilize smaller, lower-quality trees while improving the performance of engineered wood products, such as laminated beams and flooring
- use of recovered and recycled paper, paperboard and wood.
Non-wood forest products
Worldwide, the estimated value of NWFP removals in 2005 was USD 18.5 billion (FAO, 2010c), but this estimate is conservative because NWFPs are rarely reflected in official national economic statistics. NWFPs are an important complement to agricultural income, and they serve as safety nets during calamities such as drought and civil unrest. Investing in NWFPs provides an opportunity to strengthen the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, contribute to their nutrition and food security, and help conserve their resource base.
Areas for investment include improving technical knowledge and information on sustainable harvesting, collection, storage, processing and value addition; overcoming the isolation of small and medium forest enterprises by connecting them to each other and to markets, service providers and decision-makers; and providing policy and institutional support to ensure clear commercial use and/or tenure rights, a fair and simple regulatory environment, cost reductions, and the promotion of collective action and partnerships among NWFP entrepreneurs.
Forest-based tourism is another increasingly important source of revenue for many developing countries.
Green buildings and infrastructure
Although wooden buildings have traditionally been limited to only one or two storeys, innovative and engineered wood products are increasingly recognized as having potential for buildings of up to 20 or 30 storeys. It is very difficult to produce evidence of the direct environmental and GHG-mitigation benefits of using wood in building and construction. However, focusing on specific building products enables comparisons of the environmental impacts of wood and competing materials. This “material life cycle” approach measures the environmental impacts of building products at four stages:
- Extraction, refining and transportation of the raw material
- Manufacture of the product;
- Utilization and maintenance of the finished product throughout its service life
- Recycling, reuse and disposal of the product after use.