Forest Leaders’ Summit Calls on Consumers to Help Save Global ForestsJun 25 2015
“At a time when the world’s governments, businesses and civil society leaders are focusing on developing global commitments to combat climate change, to be agreed at the Climate Summit in Paris in December this year, consumers can already participate in making a difference,” said Mr. William Street Jr., Chairman of PEFC International, at a specially convened summit of the world’s leading experts in sustainable forest management certification in London this week.
Calling on British consumers to do their bit by seeking and buying day-to-day products carrying the prestigious PEFC ‘two trees’ label, Mr. Street emphasized that “it is within everybody’s power to combat climate change, and often all that is required are simple actions. By opting for PEFC-labeled products for example, we can all make our own small yet important contribution to avoid deforestation and support responsible forest management”.
Leaders from some 36 national forest certification systems recognized by internationally renowned PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, discussed the challenges and possible solutions to safeguarding the world’s forests and improve the livelihoods of the people dependent on them.
“Well-managed forests are vital for promoting and safeguarding rural livelihoods. Since PEFC started some 15 years ago, as a small European NGO, our movement has rapidly expanded to a worldwide phenomenon and now more than 260 million hectares of forests worldwide are verified as being sustainably managed. To put this in scale, that is an area equivalent to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Finland combined,” explained Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International.
“Nowadays, we see tremendous interest in our work especially in Asia, where we have seen China, Indonesia and Malaysia obtaining PEFC recognition in the past few years. This has been acting as a catalyst to inspire other countries in the region, such as India, Japan, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, to follow their example of promoting sustainable forest management and PEFC certification. We are about to make great strides in Africa in the Congo Basin were we expect to see the first certifications shortly,” Mr. Gunneberg continued.
In order to move beyond the tipping point to making PEFC-certified forestry the norm, PEFC needs to invest heavily into capacity building to make certification accessible to the millions of smallholders and community forest owners worldwide. This comes in a wide variety of flavors, from on the ground work with smallholders in Southeast Asia to ‘food from forests’ to an online tool to enable small and medium-sized woodland owners in the UK and Ireland to participate in forest certification, which was launched in London.
“This online tool provides a simple and cost-effective solution to gathering and maintaining information to assist these forest owners in becoming PEFC-certified, thereby making it much easier for them to certify their sustainable forest management practices,” said Mr. Alun Watkins, National Secretary of PEFC UK.
“‘Food from forests’ is very much relevant to sustain rural livelihoods,” explained Ms. Ana Belén Noriega, Secretary General of PEFC Spain. “The world’s forests have so much more to offer than just the traditional timber-based products, with foods as well as other products such as fibers for textiles originating in forests taking on an increasingly important role in the field of certification.”
“In Spain, big steps have been taken towards the certification of the wild foods originating in the country’s forests. From nuts and mushrooms to honey and ham: while their market is global, their production is extremely local, with Spain’s rural economies relying heavily on their production. Through PEFC-certification, we are able to improve market access for these products, with an increasing number of restaurants, organic food stores but also bigger supermarkets interested in offering locally-sourced, PEFC-certified food from forests to their customers.”