Forests key to world’s future but ‘time running out’, warns UN

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Rome, July 6 (IANS/AKI) Forests are crucial to human livelihoods but time is running out to halt the damaging effects of deforestation, to manage forests sustainably and plant new trees, the United Nations Food and Agriculture agency warned on Friday.

“Forests are critical to livelihoods,” said FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said as the agency issued the State of the World’s Forests 2018 report.

This year’s report urges a holistic approach by governments to benefit trees and those who rely on them shows the importance of forests for tackling climate change, conserving biodiversity, assuring drinking water, reducing inequalities and improving urban habitats.

“Healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable agriculture and we have proof of the significance of forests and trees for the quality of water, for contributing to the energy needs of the future, and for designing sustainable, healthy cities,” Graziano da Silva stressed.

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Forests and trees play crucial roles in food security, drinking water, renewable energy and rural economies and provide income for some 20 percent of rural households in developing countries as well as cooking and heating fuel for one-in-three people globally, according to the report.

“Trees and forests contribute to achieving multiple targets across the 2030 Agenda and need to be incorporated into strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Eva Mueller, FAO forestry director, referring to a collection of global goals set by the UN in 2015.

“To reach those furthest behind first, we must go down the forest path and empower agents of change,” Mueller said, hailing a global trend in devolving forestry rights from national governments to local and community-based tenure.

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The report emphasizes the importance of clear legal frameworks regarding forest tenure rights, applauds the growing trend in local governance, and calls for effective partnerships and private sector engagement to pursue sustainable goals.

Given that deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels, it notes that “corporate responsibility for zero deforestation is key”.

–IANS/AKI

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