The boreal forest that circles the globe doesn’t make it to the news as often as the Amazon rainforest. However, it contains a third of all the trees on earth and in combination with its soil forms the largest storage of CO2, while refreshing the entire planet’s atmosphere with the oxygen it produces. In addition, forest-based products derived from sustainably managed boreal forests offer an alternative to more carbon-intensive materials such as plastics, concrete or steel. Boreal forests are therefore a crucial ally, if we are to mitigate climate change and meet the goal of maintaining the projected global temperature increase to below 2°C.
However, in recent years boreal forests have come under attack. While boreal forests are largely untouched by direct human influence, they have been dramatically affected by anthropogenic climate change. Rising temperatures warm up the boreal forests’ permafrost soil, thus threatening to release the CO2 it had previously stored. Moreover, warmer temperatures can enable insects to thrive leading to beetle infestations. Finally, heatwave-related fires have drastically diminished the boreal forests’ size. Once the forests’ peat and turf soils are burning, it is impossible to control the fire as it spreads underneath the forest soil. Ironically, our boreal allies in the fight against climate change are destroyed by the effects of the very development they are meant to mitigate.
In light of the challenges and opportunities linked to boreal forests, ministers from the circumboreal countries, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, signed the Haparanda Ministerial Declaration on Circumboreal Cooperation on Forests in June 2018. In the declaration countries vowed to increase research cooperation and knowledge-sharing on boreal forests.
Today, at the joint 77th session of the ECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI) and the 40th session of the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC) the whole UNECE region, comprised of 56 member States, decided to further boost these efforts by establishing a Team of Specialists dedicated specifically to boreal forests. The new team’s objectives are to contribute to and streamline science and policy cooperation on boreal forests, increase collaboration with the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA) and other boreal-related research organizations, improve awareness of the boreal forests’ global role in issues such as climate change and the bioeconomy, and to advise the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section on boreal forest matters.
Anybody interested in learning more about boreal forests is also invited to join the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA) tomorrow, 6 November 2019, for the event “IBFRA Insight Process: Sustainable Boreal Forest Management – Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Change Mitigation” in Room XII at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 13h15 to 14h45.
Joint 77th session of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry (COFFI) and the 40th session of the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC):
UNECE/FAO Teams of Specialists: