MANILA – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised the urgency to increasingly restore and conserve forests worldwide to reverse further deforestation.
Forests help sustain life on Earth and are essential in building a sustainable future, but deforestation continues at an “alarming rate” with around 10 million hectares of forests — about the size of Iceland — being lost annually, Guterres noted ahead of the annual International Day of Forests (IDF) on March 21.
“If we fail to act now, we risk a point of no return,” he warned in his message, urging all sectors to help save forests as some 1.6 billion people worldwide directly depend on the ecosystem for food, shelter, energy, medicine, and income.
Forests filter air and water, help regulate climate, absorb one-third of climate change-driving greenhouse gas emissions every year and serve as habitat for some 80 percent of all known terrestrial species, he continued.
Aside from jeopardizing such benefits, Guterres said deforestation increases the risk for infectious disease outbreaks and even pandemics. It’s still not too late to address deforestation, however, he said.
“The crises our planet faces require urgent action by all — governments, international and civil society organizations, the private sector, local authorities, and individuals,” he said.
He noted stakeholders can look into how indigenous peoples (IPs) conserve forests and other ecosystems.
“IPs are leading the way, they care for Earth’s biodiversity and achieve conservation results with very few financial resources and little support,” he said.
Observance of the 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration further highlights the need to protect and conserve forests, he continued.
Such observance “calls for action to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of forests and other ecosystems,” he said.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 of every year as IDF to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of all forests.
Forest Restoration: A path to recovery and well-being is the 2021 IDF theme to highlight the benefits of forest restoration.
“It will highlight the valuable benefits of forest restoration in terms of human health, food security, environmental and climatic condition, provision of green jobs, stakeholder engagement, and healing,” the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources posted on its website.
FMB said the key messages of IDF 2021 are aligned with the three umbrella programs of the Philippine Master Plan for Climate Resilient Forestry Development 2016-2028 (Forestry Master Plan): Shield for climate change impacts, Serve the needs of people, and Shared responsibility. (PNA)