Deputy Secretary-General, at Forum on Forests Round Table, Says Reversing Nature Loss, Investing in Forestry Crucial for Achieving Sustainable Development

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the high-level round table on major forest-related developments, at the sixteenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, held today:

I am pleased to join you today.  Forests sustain life on the planet.  They perform vital functions, such as providing us with clean water.  Seventy-five per cent of global freshwater resources come from forested watersheds.  Forests are home to more than 80 per cent of biodiversity on land.

Still, each year, 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed — an area larger than the United Kingdom.  If tropical forest loss was a country, it would be the world’s third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

We face the urgent, interlinked threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution that continue to jeopardise the well-being of people on the planet.  We have our work cut out for us as we meet in these challenging times.

The COVID-19 crisis continues to affect every country and has created major setbacks to our efforts to reduce poverty and deliver sustainable development.  Yet, the current crisis also provides an opportunity to recover better, build a more inclusive and sustainable world, and make peace with nature, using the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change as our compass.

Healthy forests and ecosystems must be at the centre of these efforts.  They are ready-to-go solutions for green recovery at scale.  Looking ahead, I see three important areas for action.

First, financing is critical.  The global community must fully support countries to unlock investments for forest conservation and restoration, especially countries that are severely affected by the aggregated impacts of debt and nature hazards.  Instruments like debt-for-nature swaps are gaining momentum to address the growing debt crisis while securing investments in climate action.

The United Nations is also driving innovative, cross-cutting financing and action for forest conservation.  For example, the Central African Forest Initiative supports Governments to deliver Sustainable Development Goal-based interventions at the community level.  These include sustainable smallholder agriculture, better land-use planning, gender equality and reproductive health and with national policy improvements.

Second, forest conservation and restoration must sustain COVID-19 recovery efforts, especially in rural economies in developing countries, as they are win‑wins for stimulus investment.  New International Monetary Fund (IMF) analysis shows that, for every dollar spent in conservation, almost seven more are generated in the larger economy in the medium-term.  And every job created in forests generates an additional 1.5 to 2.5 jobs in the wider economy.

Third, we must secure ambitious outcomes at the major Summits and high-level conferences and events happening this year.  We are at a make-or-break moment.  2021 provides a unique opportunity to halt the rapid loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation while addressing the climate emergency and desertification and making our food systems more sustainable, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our guide.

In this respect, I commend the ambition of countries spearheading the “High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People” and other initiatives, which aims to secure an ambitious global agreement at the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15), to reverse nature loss.

Forests are at the core of the solutions that can help us make “peace with nature”.  The Summits must send an unmistakable signal of ambition and be a powerful force to help change the economics and politics of forest conservation, deforestation and restoration in many parts of the world.

We need all hands on deck.  Systematic multi-stakeholder dialogue across levels of government is essential to achieve transformation and results at scale.  And it is vital that we have the active engagement and support of communities and civil society organizations, including indigenous peoples and women and girls who are deeply reliant on forest resources and often lead the way on conservation and restoration.

The United Nations Forum on Forests, as the only universal intergovernmental body on forests within the United Nations system, has an important role to play.  I encourage all of you to leverage the Forum on Forests and other platforms to actively participate in the global movement fostered by the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will be launched on World Environment Day on 5 June.

Protecting and restoring forests can support COVID-19 recovery and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals — ensuring that 2021 becomes the year where we went from an era of negotiations to a decade of action.  Let’s make this happen together.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.