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Ways in which the world can tackle the urgent need to protect its threatened forests and restore forests that have been lost if it is to avoid dangerous climate change will be discussed at an international conference in Britain this week.
And despite the obstacles, forests can be restored and protected, according to Tim Rollinson, Director-General of the British Forestry Commission. He was speaking ahead of the Commonwealth Forestry Conference starting in Edinburgh, Scotland today (Monday 28 June) on the theme of “Restoring the Commonwealth’s forests: tackling climate change”.
Mr Rollinson, who also chairs the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR), said the world’s remaining forests had to be protected soon or it would not be possible to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.
“Forests are essential to life on Earth – it’s as simple as that,” Mr Rollinson said. “Forests lock up carbon and help to regulate the climate, so we need them to help keep the Earth’s climate in balance.
“They also protect the water and soil on which we all depend, they replenish the oxygen in the air we breathe, they mitigate flooding and erosion, they protect biodiversity and wildlife, and they provide places for people to refresh body and soul. When they are managed wisely, they can produce endless supplies of timber, food and many other products that need never run out.
“In short, without forests we’re in serious trouble, yet they are still being lost and degraded at an alarming rate.
“The causes of forest loss and degradation are complex and difficult, but we cannot afford to shy away from tackling them. In many cases the key is to make the forest worth more alive and healthy than degraded or removed.
“The good news is that it can be done, and this conference will hear some inspiring success stories from countries where the seemingly unstoppable tide of deforestation and forest degradation has been reversed. Forests have been restored and given better protection in ways that, crucially, local communities support and benefit from.
“Also, innovative new funding mechanisms, such as those becoming available through carbon markets, are going to help make trees worth more alive than dead, and the REDD+ programme is showing encouraging signs of making an impact in this regard.
“So we know it can be done, and many Commonwealth countries, including the UK, have built up a huge fund of experience and expertise that they can share with other members and the rest of the world to help them to protect and restore their forests too.
“This conference will be a wonderful opportunity to share and develop that experience and expertise, further develop co-operative programmes for forest restoration and protection, and add momentum to the global push to protect and restore our forests.”
Further information about the conference is available at www.cfc2010.org.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
1. Other key speakers at the conference include:
Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General;
Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Minister in the Scottish Government;
Justin Mundy, Director of the Prince’s Rainforest Project;
Dr Isabella Bovolo and Dr Elizabeth Losos of the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation;
Adam Whitmore, head of climate change projects for mining company Rio Tinto plc;
Pavan Sukhdev, Head of the Green Economy Initiative at the UN Environment Programme;
Dr Bill Jackson, Deputy Director-General of International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN);
Hosny El Lakany, Chair of the International Partnership for Forestry Education;
James Singh, Guyana’s Commissioner of Forests, who will speak about Guyana’s experiences with REDD+;
Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat; and
Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Head of the UN Forestry Department at the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
2. Deforestation and forest degradation are the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing an estimated 18 per cent of them – more than the entire transport sector.
3. REDD+ is the United Nations Collaborative Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. For further information visit www.un-redd.org.
4. The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) brings together a range of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors around the world to work together to encourage and facilitate the restoration of forest landscapes. For further information visit www.ideastransformlandscapes.org
5. The UK has roughly doubled its forest cover over the past 90 years from between 5 and 6 per cent of the land area to about 12 per cent now.
6. The Commonwealth is an association of 54 independent states around the world, most of which are former British colonies, dependencies and other territories. It has a combined total population of 1.8 billion people – 30 per cent of the world’s population. Member nations work together to improve the lives of their citizens in an atmosphere of shared co-operation and understanding. Forestry plays a fundamental part in the lives and economies of the Commonwealth’s citizens and countries, and there are significant forest resources and forestry expertise throughout the Commonwealth.
7. The Commonwealth Forestry Conferences are held approximately every four years. They bring together and share the knowledge and experience of foresters from Commonwealth and other state forest services, industry, research bodies and non-government organisations (NGOs) as well as experts from other disciplines that impinge on forestry and on which forestry impinges, such as economists, social scientists and environmental scientists. The conferences are highly regarded by forest services, which recognise them as a valuable forum for maintaining contact and exchanging knowledge and broadening experience. Conference discussions can make a real contribution to the sustainable management, conservation and development of the world’s forests.
8. The Forestry Commission is the UK’s government department for forestry in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales - Northern Ireland is served by the separate Forest Service of Northern Ireland). The Commission manages a million hectares of public forest land for multiple purposes, supports other woodland owners with grants, felling licences, regulation and advice, and advises Ministers in the UK, Scottish and Welsh Assembly Governments on forestry policy. Through its Forest Research arm, it conducts scientific research and technical development relevant to forestry for internal and external clients. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk and www.forestry.gov.uk/forestresearch.
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