ITTO Executive Director warns of perils of underinvestment in tropical forests

10 December 2023

ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru speaks during the high-level segment at COP28 held in Dubai. Photo: S. Kawaguchi/ITTO

Dubai, UAE, 10 December 2023: In an address yesterday to the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru said a continued failure to reward tropical forest countries for sustainable forest management and conservation could have dire consequences for the planet and called for urgent investment.

The address was part of the high-level segment at COP 28, which featured national statements from Parties to the UNFCCC and statements from other groups, including international organizations.

“The centrality of tropical forests for both mitigation and adaptation cannot be overstated,” said Ms Satkuru in her address. “If we continue disincentivizing forest conservation, we will never succeed in limiting the damage caused by climate change and changing land use.”

Ms Satkuru said sustainably managed tropical forests and wood production are crucial nature-based solutions.

“Timber is one of the most environmentally friendly materials we have,” she said. “Sustainable harvesting of forests is not deforestation, and the sustainable use of wood products increases global carbon storage.”

Ms Satkuru stressed the urgency of investing in sustainable tropical forest management as an imperative for the planet’s future and the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities.

“To fight climate change and transform our economies, we need to urgently invest in sustainable tropical forest management,” she said. “Sustainable forest management ensures that forest carbon stocks are maintained long term by avoiding degradation. Generating sustainable revenue from forests will ensure forests are retained and not fall victim to other competing land uses.”

Ms Satkuru spoke about ITTO’s long-term commitment to catalyzing sustainable tropical forest management. Through strategic partnerships with governments, the private sector and civil society, with a special focus on women, she said, the Organization empowers its members and local communities. The Organization’s vision extends beyond carbon sequestration to encompass integrated management that nurtures thriving ecosystems and enables sustainable use, contributing to carbon-neutral and circular bioeconomies.

“Tropical forests offer a vital pathway to a climate-resilient future,” said Ms Satkuru. “We urge all stakeholders to work with us in championing sustainable tropical forest management and to ramp up investment in them.”

Ms Satkuru also represented ITTO at an event on Saturday organized by EY focused on an initiative in the Amazon. She highlighted the Organization’s experience in working with Amazonian countries on diverse projects to promote sustainable forest management and spoke about its interest in participating in the EY initiative. Participants at the event recognized the urgent need for long-term, secure, sustainable financing in forests.

Also on Saturday, Dr Hwan Ok Ma represented ITTO at an event convened by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization focused on bamboo-based innovations for upscaling landscape restoration and green growth.

Later that day, Dr Ma represented ITTO at an event convened by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), “Climate Action Showcase: Beyond Carbon – Realizing Untapped Potential of Forests to Combat Climate Change”. The event was organized to provide an opportunity for CPF members to share their best practices and case studies on capturing the full values and productive functions of forests and the potential of renewable materials and green jobs.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ma outlined ITTO’s work through projects, policy development, guidelines, market information and four programmatic lines to help realize the full value of forests. Among other things, he informed participants of ITTO’s strong contribution to the provision of information on tropical timber markets and trade, including through the two-weekly Tropical Timber Market Report, the biannual Review of the World Timber Situation, the Organization’s long-running statistical database, the Global Timber Index and the recently launched annual Global Legal and Sustainable Timber Forums.

Dr Ma noted that the capacity to scale up sustainable forest management is limited by the modest funding available. He said ITTO is advocating for increased climate-based financing during COP 28.
Speakers at the EY panel “The Amazon Ecosystem: Reshaping opportunities for the future”. Photo: Simon Kawaguchi/ITTO