Forests and trees can help us recover from multiple crises, says new FAO report

The State of the World’s Forests 2022 Report details three pathways we need to take to unlock their potential

02/05/2022 Seoul/Rome As the world faces multiple crises, including COVID-19, conflict, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, our forests can help us recover from their impact, but only if we step up our actions to release their potential. In a key report launched today, the State of the World’s Forests Report 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sets out three pathways to achieve this: halting deforestation; restore degraded lands and develop agroforestry and sustainably use forests and build green value chains.

“The balanced and simultaneous pursuit of these pathways can help address the crises facing people and the planet while generating lasting economic benefits, especially in (often remote) rural communities,” writes the Director-General of the FAO, QU Dongyu, in the foreword to the report, subtitled “Forest Pathways for Green Recovery and Building Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable Economies” and launched at XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul.

The pathways are offered “with the understanding that solutions to interrelated planetary crises have immense economic, social and environmental implications that must be addressed holistically,” adds Qu.

The main arguments of the report are that:

1. Stop deforestation and maintain forestscould avoid emitting about 3.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) per year between 2020 and 2050, including about 14% of what is needed until 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 °C, while preserving more than half of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity.

2. Restoration of degraded lands and expansion of agroforestry – 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land would benefit from restoration, and increased tree cover could boost agricultural productivity on an additional 1 billion hectares. Restoring degraded land through afforestation and reforestation could cost-effectively remove up to 1.5 GtCO2e per year from the atmosphere between 2020 and 2050, equivalent to removing up to 325 million gasoline-powered passenger cars from traffic every year.

3. Use forests sustainably and build green value chains would help meet future demand for materials – with global consumption of all natural resources expected to more than double from 92 billion tonnes in 2017 to 190 billion tonnes in 2060 – and support sustainable economies with greater opportunities jobs and more secure livelihoods.

Societies could make better use of forests and trees to simultaneously conserve biodiversity, better ensure human well-being and generate income, especially for rural people, the report says, arguing that “there will be no no healthy economy without a healthy planet”.

But current investments in forests fall far short of what is needed. According to an estimatetotal funding for forest trails must triple by 2030 and quadruple by 2050 for the world to meet climate, biodiversity and land degradation neutrality goals, the estimated funding needed for the establishment and forest management amounting to $203 billion per year by 2050 .

Paths to walk along the trails

The report says ways to move quickly along lanes can include:

  • Direct recovery financing towards long-term policies aimed at creating sustainable and green jobs and mobilizing more private sector investment;
  • Empower and inspire local actors, including women, youth and indigenous peoples, to play a leading role in forest trails;
  • Engage in advocacy and policy dialogue on the sustainable use of forests as a means to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental goals; and
  • Maximize synergies between the three forestry pathways and between agricultural, forestry, environmental and other policies and minimize trade-offs.

The report cites a wide range of examples from around the world, demonstrating both the vital importance of forests and trees to people’s livelihoods and highlighting supportive policy initiatives – from the key role of non-timber forest products in Turkey and firewood in and Georgia, farm forestry in China and Vietnam, sustainable charcoal in Côte d’Ivoire, and formalization of land rights in Colombia.

FAO’s forestry work

FAO’s Forestry Program aims to bring about transformation that benefits forests and the people who depend on them and contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. FAO’s approach balances economic, social and environmental objectives to enable the present generation to benefit from the Earth’s forest resources while conserving these resources to meet the needs of future generations.


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Francis MarkusFAO News and Media (Rome)

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