Some of the targets agreed upon during 2010’s International Year of Biodiversity could potentially spark key actions during the recently launched International Year of Forests.
The protocol adopted in October 2010 at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity included four key decisions: halving deforestation, putting 100 percent of all forests under sustainable management, conserving at least 17 percent of all terrestrial areas, and restoring at least 15 percent of all forests—all by 2020. Although not yet ratified, the protocol also encompasses activities outlined under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.
Integrating these goals into forest policy and decision-making offers, “the biggest opportunity we have this year for bringing together the REDD+ agenda, the climate change agenda and the biodiversity agenda,” says Tim Christophersen, Program Officer with the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal.
“Having a strategy with quantifiable targets will place expectations squarely on the shoulders of individual governments, and will build peer pressure among nations.”
But Christophersen notes that it will require an effort on the scale of what was required to meet the challenges that faced humanity in the 20th century in trying to rebuild a world ravaged by WWII.
“It took massive mobilisation of resources to bring the world back on a trajectory of peace and cooperation,” he says, “and in the end, everybody won. We need effort both in terms of money, awareness, and engagement of all sectors of society that is comparable to that effort.”
If the past week’s meetings on forests at the United Nations are any indication, the political will is building. The Rwandan government, for example, have committed to border-to-border restoration by 2034, whereas China is investing huge resources in ecosystem restoration. More countries are realising that with every passing day, inaction on tackling deforestation and forest degradation means that costs are rising.
Christophersen thinks that the more we hear the boundaries of our planetary limits creaking, and the more we see that our present trajectory is not sustainable, the quicker our commitments to sustainable forests will grow. But it’s a race against time.
“Biodiversity loss is irreversible,” he says. “Once a species is lost, it’s gone forever. So we don’t’ have the luxury of waiting until we’ve fully understood how important this is. We have to act now.”