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The Forest sector has a key role to play in green economy

Published: 21 October 2009


There is a key role to play for the forest sector in the transition towards a greener economy and a more sustainable society. This was the overriding consensus of the Policy Forum on “The Forest sector in the green economy” organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held on 15 October 2009 in Geneva involving participants from Governments, Industry, Trade associations, and academics from Europe, North America, Central Asia and China.

The forest sector has suffered in 2008 and 2009 from the financial and economic crisis, due to the crash of the construction sector and reduced investments. Despite this very difficult situation, it appears that the forest sector also has opportunities to contribute to and develop in the transition towards a green economy, with environmental, economic and social benefits for society.

Governments’ economic stimulus measures adopted since the end of 2008 can only provide short-term benefits to the forest sector. Energy and climate change policies will likely have longer term effects on the forest sector, and Governments’ long-term visions are needed to enable a real shift towards a green economy.

Whereas forests play an essential role in global carbon cycles, the role of forestry arguably has been underestimated when achieving a political agreement on climate change in Kyoto in 1997. There is therefore an urgent need to promote and maximize the forest sector’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to reflect this in post-Kyoto climate change agreements being negotiate at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of the Parties (COP 15).

Promoting the sustainable management of forests, including through certification processes, should reinforce the forest-based sequestration of carbon and therefore contribute to offsetting global greenhouse gas emissions.

Significant opportunities are vested in green building to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The contribution of wood-based products to green construction and furniture production can be significant, with wood as a renewable, and eco-friendly material.

Promoting in this context the sound use of wood, with highest values first, cascading downwards, and eventually completely using wood residues, will allow taking full opportunity of wood’s comparative advantage.

Wood energy is currently the most important renewable energy source worldwide, including the UNECE region, and has great potential to further develop. Policies that promote renewable energy, including through research and development, as well as continuing high fossil fuel prices, could increase wood use for heat, power and liquid fuels.

A green economy should generate more and decent jobs. Whereas the total number of jobs in the forest sector is expected to continue to decrease, the share of green jobs in the sector should increase with the transition towards a green economy.

Last but not least, many environmental values and services provided by forests beyond timber, such as biodiversity conservation, protection against erosion and watershed protection, should also be better recognized and compensated for.

Challenges ahead are to define the right balance between what can be dealt with by the private sector and what requires governments’ involvement, and to design the best possible mix of policy measures and instruments.

For further information contact:

Ms. Eve Charles / Mr. Cedric Pène

Research Associate / Policy Officer

UNECE/FAO Timber Section

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel. +41 22 917 39 22

Fax +41 22 917 00 41

Policy forum website: http://timber.unece.org/index.php?id=201

Ref: ECE/TIM/09/P07

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05