Several pilot thematic programs and a long-term strategic action plan are likely to be adopted at the 44th session of the International Tropical Timber Council, which begins today in Yokohama, Japan.
The Council is the governing body of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). It meets at least once a year to discuss a wide-ranging agenda aimed at promoting sustainable tropical forest management and the trade of sustainably produced tropical timber.
Emerging issues such as the relationship between climate change and tropical forests will feature in the Council’s deliberations on Thematic Programs and the 2008-2013 Action Plan throughout the week. ITTO's Executive Director, Emmanuel Ze Meka, alerted Council to several climate change related activities undertaken by ITTO over the past year in his opening remarks, highlighting "the growing interest of the private sector to cooperate with ITTO to complement their own efforts to reduce CO2 emissions [via] forest-related carbon-offset activities". This interest includes a proposal by a major Japanese retailer (7&i) to invest $1 million per year over 3 years through ITTO to conserve forests and prevent deforestation in the tropics. Council Chairman Katharina Kuehmayer also stressed the importance of tropical forests in climate change mitigation in her opening remarks, noting the continuing destruction of tropical forests and ITTO's unique role in promoting sustainable forest management (SFM).
Also speaking at the opening session was Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada, who noted the strong collaboration between his city and ITTO through events like the April 2008 TICAD IV meeting. Mayor Nakada pledged his city’s continuing support for ITTO, including in new areas such as climate change and environmental education. Mr. Kunio Naito, Director-General of the Forestry Agency of Japan, stressed the importance of tropical forests, including in providing environmental services, and called for all members who had not done so yet to accelerate their process of accession to the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), 2006.
Elvis Ngolle Ngolle (Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Cameroon) and Emile Doumba (Minister of Forest Economy, Water, Fisheries and National Parks, Gabon) also addressed the Council at its opening session, both expressing concern over and calling for vigilance by ITTO to address impacts of the current turmoil in global economies on the tropical forestry sector. Minister Ngolle Ngolle stressed the importance of the forestry sector to his country’s economy and welcomed the prospect of additional ITTO assistance to Cameroon in its efforts to achieve SFM through new thematic programs. Gabon’s Minister Doumba stressed his country's continued support for ITTO, particularly in light of the new objectives and scope of the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), 2006, which his country is preparing to ratify.
The Council will also deal with several other key issues at its 44th session. The status of ratification of the ITTA 2006 will be reviewed and new biodiversity conservation guidelines for tropical production forests adopted. The Council will receive progress reports on, among others, implementation of the 2008-2009 Work Programme, and sustainable forest management in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. Council will also undertake its annual assessment of the world timber situation. Lunchtime side-events on the themes of timber tracking systems, economic benefits of tropical forest environmental services and implementation of the EU FLEGT action plan are also scheduled during the week.
For more information on the Council session, including a link to daily reporting by the Environmental News Bulletin (ENB), copies of opening speeches, and on ITTO in general, go to www.itto.or.jp.