April 23, 2024

General Studies Paper 3

Context: The eighteenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF18), held in New York from May 8-12, 2023, brought together delegates from around the world to discuss the relationship between sustainable forest management (SFM), energy, and the achievement of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are the Major Highlights of UNFF18?

Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in Tropical Region:

  • In a recent development, experts have underscored the significance of practicing SFM in tropical regions. With the surge in bioenergy consumption since 2013, there has been a mounting strain on forests, making the need for sustainable sourcing of tropical timber even more crucial.
  • The rise in bioenergy usage, driven by the global push for renewable energy sources, has inadvertently created additional pressure on tropical forests. As bioenergy relies on biomass, such as wood pellets and chips, as fuel, the demand for timber has intensified. This has raised concerns about the potential negative impact on forest ecosystems, biodiversity, and the overall sustainability of these regions.
  • By implementing sustainable practices, such as selective logging and reforestation, the long-term health and vitality of these forests can be safeguarded.

Forest Ecosystems and Energy:

  • Forestry director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted the significant contribution of forest ecosystems to renewable energy requirements.
  • Over five billion people worldwide benefit from non-timber forest products, with forests providing 55% of these renewable energy needs.

Forests and Climate Change Mitigation:

  • The Emissions Gap Report’s findings underscore the immense climate mitigation potential that forests hold. Through processes such as carbon sequestration, forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing substantial amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • By preserving and sustainably managing forests, nations can leverage this natural capacity to help bridge the emissions gap and achieve climate targets.
  • Forests have the potential for reducing 5 gigatonnes of emissions.

Challenges and Countries Perspectives:

  • India: India presented a case of a UNFF country-led initiative on long-term SFM and expressed concerns regarding wildfires and the limitations of current forest certification schemes.
  • Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia highlighted the importance of preventing forest fires and urban expansion encroaching on forested areas.
  • Suriname: Suriname, claiming to be the most forested and carbon-negative country, shared its experiences of economic pressures impacting its green cover and environmental policies.

The country committed to deriving 23% of its net energy from renewable sources by 2025 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.

  • Congo and the Dominican Republic: These countries stressed their commitment to forest conservation measures and called for strategies to reduce pressures on natural forests while improving livelihoods, given their heavy reliance on fuelwood.
  • Australia: Australia mentioned that some species rely on fire for germination and shared information on mechanical fuel load reduction trials. The country emphasised the need to make wood residue markets financially feasible.
  • Other Perspectives: Countries like Zhimin and Satkuru suggested replacing plastic sticks with residues of compacted bamboo or sawdust to produce briquettes and pellets, offering sustainable alternatives for energy production.

 

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