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The Green Economy: a real goal or just an excuse to promote forests?

Published: 17 September 2014

Forests are ' natural' suppliers to a green economy. The sustainability of wood as a material is proven; the ecological functions and ecosystem services that they provide are undeniable. The challenge for countries is how to enhance this contribution, while strengthening the sustainability of the forestry sector, increasing its economic input and preventing or limiting environmental damage.

There has been much debate on the potential of the forest sector in a green economy, and whether placing forests under the overall green economy agenda is a strategic move, an opportunity to gain visibility or a concrete goal. Probably the term 'green economy' has implications for all the above and, certainly, a special relevance for work on forests.

"Whether it is an 'excuse' to gain visibility, or a clear goal, the green economy is an important concept for forests. And it is not only words. Now we have a Plan and actions. It is time to work on their implementation" said Janusz Zaleski, Deputy Director General of the Polish State Forests, when he opened the meeting of the UNECE-FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Policy, which takes place in Cracow, Poland, from 15 to 18 September 2014.

For countries in the region, the UNECE-FAO Rovaniemi Act Plan on the Forest Sector in a Green Economy is, indeed, the blueprint for implementing concrete actions to strengthen the sector in ways that are both economically and environmentally viable. It is the outcome of the joint work of about 30 governmental organizations and bodies and over 80 stakeholders from the private sector and non-governmental organizations. It was approved in December 2013 and countries and stakeholders already have started their work to turn it into reality and the first impacts are now visible.

The UNECE-FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Policy met in order to learn about actions currently being undertaken, to discuss their impact and identify priorities for next steps.

Spain has mirrored the Rovaniemi Action Plan in its national PASSFOR, the Plan for the 'activation' of the Spanish Forest Sector. PASSFOR has the green economy as its leading concept and its activities are aimed at the promotion and diversification of socioeconomic activities for Spanish forests. PASSFOR, which has the same horizon of 2020 as the Rovaniemi Action Plan, has an implementation committee already established and is developing indicators of performance to ensure implementation and accountability.

Polish foresters are translating the Rovaniemi Action Plan into projects that try to capture the many economic and environmental benefits of forests. This includes, for instance, a major project, co-funded by the Polish State Forests and the European Union for water retention, which involves over 200 forest holdings throughout the country. This project not only advances the ability of forest land to capture water, it also demonstrates the ability of forests to increase significantly carbon absorption and protect land from natural disasters such as flooding.

The Alpine Convention, through its Protocol on Mountain Forests and its work on the green economy, is also aligning its work to the Rovaniemi Action Plan. The potential of alpine regions to develop sustainably, use forest resources more strategically and attract investments while maintaining the alpine landscape is being explored and exploited.

For more information on the recommendations from the experts of the Team of Specialists on Forest Policy, please contact Arnaud Brizay, at arnaud.brizay@unece.org.

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