Forests are a human habitat entwined with cultural significance. As well as being a place to live they are the livelihoods of many communities and historically the fundamental material for many cultures. The name Sapele comes from the city in Nigeria and is linked with the name of a local deity. Its colour and versatility have made it sought after as a Mahogany substitute for furniture, joinery, boat building and of course – musical instruments.
Forests provide a variety of cultural values and symbolic functions, as numerous and diverse as the communities and cultures of the regions. “Tangibly and intangibly, forests feature in all aspects of culture: language, history, art, religio, medicine, politics and even social structure itself”.
Covering around 30% of the earth’s land surface (nearly 4 billion hectares), forests are an incredibly valuable resource for carbon storage, biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihoods. The largest share of forests’ total value (65-95%) lies in their climate-regulatory function.
2020 was declared a “super year for nature”, with several global climate conferences set prior to COVID-19, to protect biodiversity and slow climate change. As COVID-19 inevitably took priority as the ‘big issue’ for 2020 but climate impacts were still felt across the globe and the preprecutions on the climate emergency will continue.
Conversations about Climate change provides a platform for urgent climate debates to be instigated and will recognise key themes for the upcoming rescheduled COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. Many policy makers recognise that “forests were going to play a major part in those talks [COP26], and they were going to be looking at ways in which, and financial mechanisms in which, we could keep those tropical forests standing”.
The role of forests
Almost a quarter of global emissions are a result of agriculture, deforestation and land-use change. Natural carbon sinks like oceans, peatlands and forests can go some way in reducing global emissions. Nature-based solutions can strengthen these efforts through protecting and restoring forests, wetland and coastal ecosystems. All of these can help humanity adapt and build resilience against the climate emergency, protect the health of the planet and livelihoods and stimulate economic development.
COP26 brings together governments, businesses and civic organisations to raise ambition on tackling the drivers of the climate emergency and biodiversity loss, enabling financing to protect and restore precious ecosystems and beginning the transition towards sustainable land use to benefit all (UKCOP 26).
“We will bring together the major producer and consumer countries of forest-risk commodities to agree collaborative actions to protect forests, while promoting development and trade”.
The EU FLEGT Action Plan
The EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan helps combat illegal logging and deforestation. Consequently this form of sustainable forest management is an essential part to emission reduction needed for mitigating the worst impacts of climate change and thus rising global temperatures.