International Day of Forests: New FAO report weighs in on SDGs, climate crisis

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On the occasion of the International Day of Forests 2022, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture agency (FAO) released a report at Dubai’s Expo 2020 on Monday to outline how countries can tackle the climate crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The comprehensive report entitled ‘Forest Products in the global bioeconomy: Enabling substitution with wood-based products and contributing to sustainable development goals’ is a call to action for countries to use wood-based products in a more sustainable manner as the world continues to combat the climate crisis.

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From drinking water to building houses, forests have always been important and precious resources for people’s lives and are key to solving many global challenges, a statement released by the FAO on Monday said. Decreasing the environmental impact involved in its use and decreasing waste generation will make great strides in furthering SDGs to ensure a more sustainable future.

Currently, 75 percent of global material consumption is based on non-renewable resources, FAO said, attributing this to the fact that the extraction, transport, processing, and disposal of these resources implies an enormous impact on biodiversity, the climate and the environment overall.

Piles of legal wood are seen in a wood company warehouse in the Amazon rainforest, inside Jamari National Forest Park in the County of Itapua do Oeste, Rondonia state, Brazil, September 28, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)
Piles of legal wood are seen in a wood company warehouse in the Amazon rainforest, inside Jamari National Forest Park in the County of Itapua do Oeste, Rondonia state, Brazil, September 28, 2021. (File photo: Reuters)

Wood-based products can assist with climate change mitigation when used appropriately, such as by storing carbon and helping avoid or reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the materials they substitute for concrete, steel, plastics, and synthetic fibers, the report outlined.

“There is strong evidence at product level that wood products are associated with lower [greenhouse gas] emissions over their entire life cycle when compared to products made from non-renewable or emissions-intensive materials,” the report stated, adding that the use of wood and wood-based products is associated with lower fossil and process-based emissions when compared to non-wood products.

Forests are a vital part of our present and future. Covering around one-third of the entire plant’s surface, forests provide clean water and air, timber, fuel, and food. The forestry sector employs around 33 million people worldwide and its benefits are enjoyed by billion across the globe, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu stated at the opening ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday.

“However, the global area of forests has been shrinking in the last decades … today, only 25 percent of total material demand is met by biomass, including wood, the remainder by non-renewable resources,” he added, urging the need for countries to take immediate action on the matter.

The sun shines through trees in a protected area of Bialowieza forest, the last primeval forest in Europe, near Bialowieza village, Poland, May 30, 2016. (File Photo: Reuters)
The sun shines through trees in a protected area of Bialowieza forest, the last primeval forest in Europe, near Bialowieza village, Poland, May 30, 2016. (File Photo: Reuters)

Held under the theme “Forests and Sustainable Production and Consumption” and the slogan “Choose Sustainable Wood for People and Planet,” the event was conceived as an opportunity to connect citizens, old and young, and raise awareness about the work that FAO and its partners carry out, including getting people to take action for a more sustainable world.

“Effective problem-solving requires the involvement of all stakeholders, collaboration across disciplines and sectors, consideration of local contexts, and the use of the best available scientific knowledge,” said John Parrotta, President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the global network for forest science cooperation, which jointly organized the ceremony with the FAO and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

The event and report highlighted how forests can play a critical role in achieving the SDGs set out by the UN, including SDG12: Responsible consumption, SDG13: Climate action and production, and SDG15: Life on Land.

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