Bringing about sustainable forest management, led by a sustainable trade in forest products, is now urgent in the face of climate change, according to Togo’s Prime Minister, Kome Sélom Klassou, speaking at the opening of the 55th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council in Lomé, Togo.
Mr Klassou said that forests face enormous risks, and their degradation and loss are contributing to global warming.
“Forest resources are not infinite; on the contrary they are deteriorating at an alarming rate,” he said. “Facing these major challenges, we need to reverse this trend to promote consistent policies for sustainable forest management.”
The International Tropical Timber Council is the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). It comprises 74 member countries concerned with promoting the trade of sustainably produced tropical timber. The Council is meeting this week to discuss a range of issues related to sustainable tropical forest management and the international timber trade.
Also speaking at the opening of the session, ITTO Executive Director Dr Gerhard Dieterle said there was now clear international recognition that forests and forest products can contribute substantially to the mitigation of climate change.
“This is a substantial shift from previous approaches, in which timber and wood-based energy were treated as a cause of the problem rather than an integral part of the solution,” he said.
The need to produce more wood by sustainable means was more urgent than ever, said Dr Dieterle, as the global population grows and climate change looms ever larger.
“More people on the planet means a need to not only supply more food but also more wood, woodfuel and other important forest services,” he said.
A failure to adopt sustainable timber supply chains, said Dr Dieterle, would mean more degradation, more competition with agriculture, more consumption of non-renewable materials and energy, more loss of jobs and livelihoods, especially in rural areas, and more migration and conflict.
“The cost of inaction will be very high,” he said.
Council chairperson Mr John Leigh said that timber, including tropical timber, should be seen as an opportunity for sustainable development and a potential part of the solution to climate change.
“There is an urgent need to improve the image of the forest sector and to address the lingering perception among many people worldwide that logging causes deforestation and therefore the forest industry is a destructive agent,” he said.
Sustainably managed forests and wood products can play a major role in “decarbonizing” economies by sequestering carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in long-term wood products such as house frames and furniture, and by using wood as a substitute for non-renewable and high-carbon-emitting materials and energy, said Mr Leigh.
“Therefore, nature-based solutions to climate change involving trees and forests can only be fully achieved within the framework of legal and sustainable supply chains, from the forest to the market,” he said.
ITTO has embarked on an initiative to encourage the development of “legal and sustainable” tropical timber supply chains. It is working with governments in the tropics, as well as importing countries, wood producers and exporters, and civil-society bodies to increase transparency in such supply chains, adopt sustainable practices such as low-impact logging and efficient processing techniques, and ensure the equitable distribution of benefits from the tropical timber trade.
Among other things, the Organization has worked with major Chinese timber importers to develop the Global Green Supply Chain Network
, a network of like-minded companies and industry associations to address sustainability in tropical timber supply chains.
The development of sustainable tropical timber supply chains would benefit everyone, according to Professor David Wonou Oladokoun, Togo’s Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Nature Protection. Sustainable timber supply chains should, he said, “make it possible to improve the quality and availability of information on tropical forests, markets and trade in wood forest products in order to reassure consumers about legal and sustainable sources of the products they buy”.
This, in turn, would assist tropical timber producers, including smallholders, to gain greater access to global markets for their products and increase their earnings from it, which would enable them to invest more in sustainable forest management.
Prime Minister Klassou concluded that such approaches were essential for sustainable development to become a reality.
“We must reconcile freedom of trade and respect for the rule of law, economic development and the urgent need to reconcile ourselves with nature,” he said.
The concept of sustainable supply chains will be further explored at the International Tropical Timber Council’s inaugural Trade and Markets Day, to be held in conjunction with the Council’s 55th Session on Tuesday 3 December.
Also on the first day of the session, the Council deliberated on several agenda items. In additional to administrative matters, Jennifer Conje, co-chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Enhancing the Financing Architecture and Fundraising of the Organization, presented a report on the working group’s findings and recommendations (agenda item 14), followed by a presentation on the same agenda item by Executive Director Dieterle. Jorge Malleux and Catherine Rivoal, co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group established under Decision 6(LIV) “Selection of the candidates for the position of Executive Director of the ITTO” (agenda item 14 (b)), presented a report on the working group’s deliberations. The Committee on Finance and Administration and the Committee on Reforestation and Forest Management also convened during the day.