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Rovaniemi Action plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy can trigger cross sectoral initiatives in the context of the Paris Agreement

Reducing forest cover, illegal logging and land degradation pose serious threat to the forests in the Caucasus and Central Asia. To address these issues forest sector needs a long term vision together with national strategies and action plans to support the sustainable management and use of forests. Small economic significance of the forest sector has led to the situation where forests are rarely taken on board in national green economy strategies.

Aiming to support countries in this region the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section has been working to build their capacity to address these challenges since 2013. The ”Sustainable Management of Forest for Greener Economies in the Caucasus and Central Asia” project aimed to provide a long term vision for forest sector and facilited their inclusion into national strategies and action plans to support the sustainable management of forests.

Rovaniemi Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy (RAP), which was prepared as a joint effort with governments, academia, industrial associations and NGOs, lists possible actions for the forest sector stakeholders to enhance and inspire the development towards a green economy. It has been the starting point for many national activities, discussed during a side event ”Towards a Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development: Practical Tools for the Forest Sector” at the Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi, Georgia, on 9 June 2016. The event featured national experiences from Finland and Georgia.

Local populations benefit from forest as source of fuelwood and income. Georgia is showing example by taking the first steps to implement the forest sector action plan for a green economy in forestry training and education, with the target to create new jobs in rural areas. The efforts have started with a dialogue involving several educational institutions. Finland, a nordic country with ¾ of the land covered by forests, benefits from the renewable resource through tourism and effective forest industry, which is in transition. Finland has a national bioeconomy strategy that targets to attract new investments in renewable resources based research and industry and to create new jobs. Finland calls for other countries to join the efforts towards a low emission, resource efficient society.

Integrated approach to landuse policies taking into consideration the needs of different sectors such as energy, water, agriculture, and forests could be the key to enhance the development towards a green, circular economy, where most materials are recycled or reused and the amount of waste is minimized. The use of renewable natural resources should be encouraged to reduce the CO2 emissions in all sectors, and policies that still support polluting industries such as coal, should be revised. Green economy and its tools, like RAP, provide convenient environment for cross-sectoral cooperation and sectoral actions in this regard.

The greenness of the forest management is gaining even more visibility in the context of the recent global political agreements.

”The Paris Agreement reminds us about the important role that forests play in the context of climate change, which goes beyond reducing the C02 emissions. Forests are key to maintain the air and water quality, to combatting the desertification and to the development of local communities” said Slawomir Mazurek, Undersecretary of State from the Ministry of the Environment in Poland.

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