COVID-19: Forests Can Help in World Economic Recovery

By Gift Briton

With more than half of the world’s gross domestic product ($84.4 trillion in 2020) dependent upon ecosystem services including those provided by forests, the global economic recovery is rooted in forests, a new report finds.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  State of the World’s Forests (SOFO 2022), trees and forests can help the world recover from the economic shocks of COVID-19 and tackling environmental crises including climate change and biodiversity loss.

In addition to help sustainably meet the increasing global demand for materials and address environmental challenges, the report notes that simultaneous and balanced pursuit of restoring degraded lands, expanding agroforestry, sustainably using forests and building green value chains can generate sustainable economic and social benefits for countries and their rural communities.

Halting deforestation would significantly reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and this will positively contribute towards climate change mitigation since 14 percent reduction of the greenhouse gas emission is needed by 2030 in order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report reveals.

Furthermore, restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry would boost the world’s agricultural productivity on another 1-billion-hectare land.

According to the report, sustainably using forests and building green value chains would help meet future demand for materials since global consumption of all natural resources is expected to double from 92 billion tons  to 190 billion tons in 2060.

According to Manuel Guariguata, a principal scientist for Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) and Lead Scientist for Peru, “The capacity of tropical countries to address forest conservation may have been undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020, the total area deforested across the global tropics doubled with respect to pre-COVID-19 values the year before. Shutdowns and public health concerns pushed the political priorities away from forests and trees.”

Further, Vincent Gitz, CIFOR-ICRAF’s Director for Latin America said, “The pandemic has underscored the need for creating shorter supply chains and more diverse and resilient systems.”

Countries are therefore urged to halt deforestation, restore degraded land and build sustainable value chains threefold by 2030 and fourfold by 2050 in order to meet climate, biodiversity and land degradation neutrality targets.

“In countries that are poor, like the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), the question remains: How do you ensure incentives, including financial ones, trickle down to the smallholder farmers so they can reduce the environmental impact from activities that they need to conduct for their basic survival, like cutting down trees for fuelwood?” said Paolo Cerutti, CIFOR-ICRAF Senior Scientist and Lead for DRC.

“Governments are estimated to spend $1.8 trillion a year in military expenditures and more than $5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies, but only about $50 billion on landscape restoration. It’s time for society to rethink our priorities to enable a better future.”

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