Report of main proceedings for 12 March 1996

2nd Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Delegates dedicated day two of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests to programmeelement I.4, fragile ecosystems affected by desertification and the impact of air-bornpollution of forests and element I.5, needs and requirements of countries with low forestcover.

ECOSYSTEMS AFFECTED BY DESERTIFICATION, AND AIR- BORNE POLLUTION IMPACTS

PART 1 - DESERTIFICATION

Co-Chair Krishnan invited delegates to resume commentary on program element I.4.

CHINA stressed the need to rely on national legal regimes and suggested that nationalplans reflect each nation’s economic and social development. Developed countries shouldassist with financing and share technical know-how related to increasing forest cover andmanaging existing forests. The EU called for: integrating national plans with evolvinginternational programs; improving donor coordination; and expanded applied research,particularly on native and woody species as well as alternative fuel sources.AUSTRALIA stated that community and land owner participation is key to addressingdesertification issues.

SWEDEN encouraged an expansion of plantation research with an aim towards clarifyingmanagement objectives and establishing profitable market outlets. He called for aninterdisciplinary approach, noting the need to address issues such as animal husbandry,water conservation and sound agricultural practices. CANADA called for institutionalstrengthening and recognition of links to the convention on desertification (CCD). Heurged countries to reform ineffective land tenure systems and to promote participation oflocal communities and integration of traditional knowledge. Alternative fuel sourcesshould be identified and socioeconomic factors considered with the goal of enhancedfood security. The US, supported by Japan, endorsed linkages to the CCD, includingafforestation and reforestation under the CCD Committee on Science and Technology.

The REPUBLIC OF KOREA stated that desertification is a global issue, not a regionalone and encouraged technology transfer and NGO participation. CHILE stated thatgovernmental assistance in the form of direct and indirect subsides as well as providingaccess to technology has resulted in an increase in plantations and an overall reduction indesertified/arid zones.

MEXICO called for discussion of strategies to improve, enhance and backstop marketsfor Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). JAPAN called desertification an issue ofsustainable development, and emphasized technologies adaptable to local populations.

MALAYSIA highlighted the effect of atmospheric pollutants on soil critical nutrientloads, while INDONESIA emphasized prevention in mitigating these effects. TheNETHERLANDS stressed preservation of remaining natural vegetation and called forlocal participation in national forestry action programmes. NORWAY highlightedbottom-up and participatory approaches, especially in the context of utilizing traditionalknowledge for management.

IRAN stated that the IPF should address underlying causes such as poverty andunemployment, and questioned the value of industrial afforestation of arid lands.

ZIMBABWE noted that afforestation can be expensive. He stated that survival needslimit the participation of rural people in combating desertification. PAPUA NEWGUINEA stated that research and information sharing is necessary to promote selectionof appropriate species, and noted the importance of national and local partnerships.INDIA highlighted the work of the Arid Forest Research Institute on sustainableagricultural and water harvesting practices by small and marginal farmers in dry areas.

ARGENTINA stated that international cooperation should encourage reforestation withnative species, and called for NTFP research for sustainable development.

TANZANIA emphasized the problem of land degradation by refugees. ALGERIA calledattention to a national reforestation programme to reduce poverty and internal migration.He called for technology transfer and financial assistance. FRANCE stated that naturaland reconstituted forests are not substitutable, and called for moderating demand forwood products.

UGANDA noted that reforestation campaigns in tropical Africa have not narrowed thegap between afforestation and deforestation, and requested a reference to narrowing thegap as a priority. BRAZIL could not support statements that plantations are negative as awhole and questioned the asserted sharp decline in the production and trade of non-timberforest products. He said the document did not present a holistic view of desertification.FINLAND said international bodies should develop decentralized action programs thatwould be carried out by the countries themselves. IGOs should address capacity-buildingand provide strategic support for national land use programmes. PERU requested moreinformation on desertification and population pressures for IPF-3. He emphasized theimportance of addressing population pressures in high mountain regions. The Chairsummarized delegates’ statements: placing IPF in the context of the CBD, FrameworkConvention on Climate Change (FCCC) and INCD; an integrated view of underlyingcauses; socioeconomic plans in harmony with afforestation; national forest action planson the local and micro level; bottom-up and participatory management and partnerships;NGO and local authority participation; suitable species for arid areas, the potential ofNTFPs and traditional knowledge.

On the impact of air-borne pollutants, the EU said air pollution is an external factor thatcannot be influenced by the forest sector itself. He supported the proposed topics forconsideration and highlighted the need for national commitments. POLAND suggestedseveral management principles and called for promotion of natural ecosystem processes.He stressed the need for development and transfer of environmentally sound technologyto prevent pollution. NORWAY emphasized the “critical loads” concept and the need forcost-effective agreements. It has supported a pilot project on a methodology for use in theECE region. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA said an international agreement may bepremature and noted the need for scientific evidence and research. He called for aworkshop or expert group meeting. DENMARK said the link between pollutants andelemental inputs from the atmosphere should be considered during afforestation efforts.AUSTRIA said the CSD should be informed that pollution abatement in energyproduction and transportation are essential for forest protection. GERMANY said that airpollution illustrates that sustainable development of forests is related to factors beyondcontrol of the forest community. He supported monitoring effects over long periods,raising awareness to influence political decisions and taking measures to improve forestsstands. CANADA highlighted the need to demonstrate that policies are based onobjective scientific research. He noted the importance of transferring environmentallysound technology.

PART 2 AIR POLLUTION AND FORESTS

SWITZERLAND, supported by a number of delegations, emphasized the importanceof the “critical loads” approach to understanding the impact of airborne emissions onforests. JAPAN commented on adapting this approach to South and East Asia, noting thaturbanization and nitrogen oxide emissions necessitated a regional approach.

GHANA stated that airborne pollution is not only a problem for developed countries. Hecalled for a preventive approach in countries just beginning to industrialize. He cautionedthat different forests have varying capabilities to withstand air pollution. The UShighlighted its national clean air legislation and implementing regulations, a new foresthealth monitoring initiative, and a US-Canada accord on transboundary air pollution.SWEDEN stated there is sufficient knowledge to take action to mitigate airbornepollution. He stated that complex ecosystems such as tropical rainforests may beespecially sensitive, and that the problem cannot be solved through forest managementpractices.

CITIZENS ALLIANCE FOR SAVING THE EARTH AND ATMOSPHERE on behalf ofseveral Japanese NGOs highlighted the importance of legally-binding instruments ontransboundary pollution and on climate change. INDIA stated that energy use per capita isvery low in his country, and described efforts to promote clean energy sector technology.

The RUSSIAN FEDERATION drew attention to the fragile nature of boreal forests,noting that Russian forests comprise 22% of the world’s total. FRANCE highlighted therole of scientific research, public education and media coverage in encouraging decisionsto mitigate airborne pollution. BRAZIL called for a study of natural versus anthropogeniccauses of forest dieback. He called the reference to economic growth and fossil fuels a“sensitive issue” with developing countries, also requiring further study.

NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS OF COUNTRIES WITH LOW FOREST COVER

Co-Chair Martin Holdgate introduced programme element I.5, needs and requirements ofcountries with low forest cover (LFCs), and UNEP senior programme officer Bai MassTaal introduced the document (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/4). The document attempts to identifyLFCs based on FAO statistics and definitions. It concludes that LFCs require cooperationto reduce their dependence on foreign forest goods and services, and that they mayconsider investing in "minimum permanent forest estate." The document also proposesactions.

CHINA said it might be advisable to use a unified low forest cover definition. It isessential to address forest cover at an international as well as national level. The report ismissing the need for international cooperation including capacity building and financialand technical assistance. MEXICO said all types of forests and forest vegetation shouldbe considered. Biodiversity and other environmental goods and services that are notreflected in economic terms are important. The UK said it is not appropriate to search fora single definition that will satisfy all circumstances. Actions should be prioritized,recognizing that all countries do not have the same options and that afforestation,reforestation, plantations and other items are not only for LFCs .

AUSTRALIA said there is a need to identify developed and developing countries’ needs.Work should be done on inventory methodology, and greater emphasis given to timberproduction values. Plantations can contribute directly to protecting biodiversity andindirectly to decreasing pressure on native forest resources. GABON proposed to defineoptimal forest cover as a point at which a country’s supply of forest goods and servicesequals demand and to refer to “irreducible needs” to eliminate North-South discrepancies.The NETHERLANDS emphasized the importance of timber. He expressed hesitationabout promoting substitutes.

GERMANY encouraged grouping countries in relation to their causes of deforestation,noting this may also help in the analysis of program element I.2. Inter-sectoral policydevelopment considering microeconomic factors is necessary. Countries should establishaffordable quantities of forest cover, factoring in opportunity costs associated with waterand land tenure systems. The US sought clarification of the reference to “global” inrelation to the availability of forest products per person on national and global terms. Hewelcomed international cooperation concerning technology sharing, as well as jointimplementation schemes for carbon set-off and financing. CANADA urged that the reportaddress developed countries with low forest cover. He recommended participatoryapproaches to forest stewardship, enhanced efficiency of fuelwood use and valuation ofwood and non-wood resources. Biodiversity concerns should be integrated into existingnational plans and land tenure systems.

IRAN urged the Panel to consider global issues and to examine the causes behind LFCssuch as poverty and the lack of technology and expertise. He suggested that regional andinternational efforts be undertaken to assist LFCs. Mangrove forests should be addressed.COLOMBIA has relatively high forest cover, but the recommendations will be relevantbecause all countries should improve degraded areas. He said the list of recommendationsshould be prioritized. NEW ZEALAND appreciated the emphasis on national levelconcerns, the distinction made between LFC and LFC per capita and the recognition ofquestions about the environmental impacts of substitutes. MALAYSIA expresseduncertainty over the definition of forest cover and questioned whether woodlands shouldbe included. IPF should consider a methodology for evaluation of non-wood forestproducts and define “uniqueness” to cover all forest types.

IN THE CORRIDORS

Delegates and observers say differing views expressed in the first two days of IPF-2 onwhether certain measures should be implemented at the global or national level could bethe resumption of a continuing debate. Raised initially regarding underlying causes ofdeforestation and regarding optimum forest cover, the global-national balance could re-emerge in other issues. Observers say similar considerations have run through forestpolicy processes since UNCED, with initial aspirations toward global action ending withdecision-making left to national governments. Others say national action will be criticalto the effectiveness of any global measures.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS OF COUNTRIES WITH LOW FORESTCOVER: Delegates are expected to continue discussions of programmeelement I.5, needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover, in morning andafternoon sessions.

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