Why and How are Forests Pivotal to Sustainability?
Forests cover one third of the earth's land mass, performing vital functions and supporting the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people.
Forests are home to more than half of the world’s land-based species of animals, plants and insects. They combat climate change because of their capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it, which is called forest mitigation.
This avoiding and reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which prevents the planet from warming to more extreme temperatures, is also called Climate change mitigation, a blog by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stated.
Forests also buffer the impacts of storms and floods. By feeding our rivers, forests supply drinking water for nearly half of the world’s largest cities. They also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
At UN Environment Programme, we are working towards a future with healthy and sustainably managed forests around the world – for people and planet.
Limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C will be impossible without forests, both because of emissions reductions and additional carbon that can be sequestered through improved forest management and reforestation.
The practice of planting and maintaining forested areas for the benefit and sustainability of both humans and the environment is called forest conservation.
Eliminating emissions from deforestation and increasing carbon removals by promoting forest regrowth and landscape restoration could reduce global net emissions by up to 30%, and over the next decade, forests could provide as much as 50% of the cost-effective mitigation available.
It’s clear that forests play an important role in Climate action, which are all the efforts done to mitigate the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones, and aggravating water management problems
Besides, forests also help reducing agricultural production and food security, increasing health risks, damaging critical infrastructure and interrupting the provision of basic services such water and sanitation, education, energy and transport.
Forests also provide non-carbon services that are essential for human societies to thrive: from its role in sustaining livelihoods to providing water and food security, and regulating global rainfall patterns.
However, each year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed. This deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Deforestation and land degradation also undermine efforts to build resilience to climate impacts and threaten forest dwelling communities.
The production of agricultural commodities, including palm oil, beef, soy, timber, and pulp and paper, drives around 70 per cent of tropical deforestation. Halting this trend requires decoupling commodity production from deforestation.
"At UN Environment Programme, we have identified three building blocks that are essential for a global transformation in the protection and sustainable management of forests: know-how, enabling conditions and finance," the UNEP blog stated further.
The potential gains are enormous: By investing $30 billion in fighting deforestation, we can earn a return of $2.5 trillion in saved products and services. Targeted investments in forestry can also generate up to millions of jobs.
We catalyse and support such investments by generating knowledge on the socioeconomic value of forest ecosystem services; promoting cross-sectoral awareness; supporting planning and policy reforms; and developing capacity in developing countries.
Many leaders have already glimpsed the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets. But for the world to see a true transformation in forest management, forests need to become a universal political priority.