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Forests & Trees Can Help People Build Resilience to Multiple Crises: New FAO Report

Restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry – Restoration would benefit 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land, and increasing tree cover could boost agricultural productivity on another 1 billion hectares.

Shivam Dwivedi
Forest & Trees
Forest & Trees

With the world facing multiple crises, including pandemic, conflicts, climate change, and biodiversity loss, our forests can help us recover from their effects, but only if we take stronger action to realise their full potential. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) lays out 3 paths for doing so in a key report released today, the State of the World's Forests Report 2022: halting deforestation; restoring degraded land and expanding agroforestry; and using forests sustainably and building green value chains.

"The balanced, concurrent pursuit of these pathways can help address the crises confronting people and the planet while also generating sustainable economic benefits, particularly in (often remote) rural communities," writes FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in the foreword to the report, titled "Forest Pathways for Green Recovery and Building Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Economies" and released at the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul.

The pathways are proposed "with the understanding that solutions to interconnected planetary crises have enormous economic, social, and environmental implications that must be addressed holistically," according to Qu.

Findings of Report:

Stopping deforestation and preserving forests could save approximately 3.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) per year between 2020 and 2050, which is approximately 14% of what is required up to 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, while protecting more than half of the Earth's terrestrial biodiversity.

Restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry – Restoration would benefit 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land, and increasing tree cover could boost agricultural productivity on another 1 billion hectares. Between 2020 and 2050, restoring degraded land through afforestation and reforestation could cost-effectively remove up to 1.5 GtCO2e per year from the atmosphere, equivalent to taking up to 325 million gasoline-powered passenger cars off the road each year.

Sustainable forest management and the development of green value chains would help meet future material demand – with global consumption of all-natural resources expected to more than double from 92 billion tonnes in 2017 to 190 billion tonnes in 2060 – and would support sustainable economies with more job opportunities and more secure livelihoods.

According to the report, societies could make better use of forests and trees to conserve biodiversity, improve human well-being, and generate income, particularly for rural people, arguing that "there will be no healthy economy without a healthy planet."

However, current forest investment falls far short of what is required. According to one estimate, total financing for forest pathways must triple by 2030 and quadruple by 2050 for the world to meet climate, biodiversity, and land degradation targets, with the estimated required finance for forest establishment and management alone amounting to $203 billion per year by 2050.

Ways Forward:

According to the report, methods for moving quickly along the pathways may include:

  • Directing recovery funding toward long-term policies aimed at creating sustainable and green jobs and increasing private-sector investment;

  • Empowering and incentivizing local actors, including women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples, to take the lead in the forest pathways;

  • Engaging in awareness-raising and policy dialogue on sustainable forest use as a means of simultaneously achieving economic and environmental goals;

  • Maximizing synergies among the three forest pathways, as well as between agricultural, forestry, environmental, and other policies, while minimizing trade-offs.

The report cites numerous examples from around the world, demonstrating both the critical importance of forests and trees to people's livelihoods and pointing to support policy initiatives, ranging from the critical role of non-wood forest products in Turkey and wood fuel in Georgia, to smallholder forestry in China and Vietnam, sustainable charcoal in Côte d'Ivoire, and formalizing land rights in Colombia.

FAO’s Forestry Programme:

FAO's Forestry Programme is dedicated to bringing about the transformation that benefits forests and the people who rely on them, as well as assisting in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The FAO approach balances economic, social, and environmental goals in order to allow the current generation to benefit from the Earth's forest resources while conserving those resources for future generations.

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