After a year of worldwide climate protests, Earth Day 2020 – the 50th anniversary of this important day – was poised to be a defining moment in the fight against climate change. But a global pandemic eclipsed the celebrations with uncertainty and fear, as nations battled to “flatten the curve”, leaving our unfolding environmental crisis on the sidelines.
While COVID-19 has been life-changing, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the fact that climate change will create even greater impacts. It is our greatest collective challenge and can be sidestepped no longer. The 2020s is our “Decade to Deliver” – to uphold (or return to) the Paris Agreement, halve global carbon emissions, and decarbonise our economies. Governments and corporate leaders have a profound duty to accelerate the pace of change – pandemic or otherwise.
Forests for All Together
At FSC, we know that one key solution to climate change resides in forests – natural climate solutions vital to any carbon-reduction efforts. Statistics show that by protecting about 400 million hectares of forests, we can slash carbon emissions by 5.5-8.8 gigatons by 2050, while preventing 700 gigatons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. Proper forest management also limits the spread of infectious diseases by preserving natural habitats.
This is the driving force behind today’s celebration of FSC Friday – an annual awareness day to increase knowledge, encourage commitment and raise appreciation for responsible forestry. Together we unite behind this year’s theme of “Forests for All Together” because, as the pandemic has demonstrated, we are one global family who share this planet. Today, our connectedness goes even deeper at the intersection between environment, economy – and health.
As the world continues to focus on this worst-in-a-century pandemic, we are losing the climate change battle and losing our forests at an unsustainable pace of 7.6 million hectares per year. Now, more than ever before, sustainable forestry practices are essential.
As governments fail to pressure businesses, they are in turn slow to act. Climate Action 100+ is one recent initiative that seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions from major corporations. Companies were asked to begin by disclosing climate-related data, but only 25 per cent disclosed forestry-specific information.
In fact, just 13 companies listed information on at least one key deforestation commodity – indicating a lack of transparency and the work that must be done. Meanwhile, only a third of these global companies have robust certification in place with regard to their commodities. A 2020 report confirms that good corporate governance of deforestation is not the norm.
Certified forests: a vital solution to climate change
To overcome climate change, it’s imperative that countries prioritise responsible forest management. One proven measure is to leverage and deploy certification programmes such as the standard offered by FSC.
FSC-certified forests protect habitats and wildlife, ensure responsible forestry practices and also uphold Indigenous Peoples’ rights. These communities have long kept our forests prosperous, with ways of life rooted in land management. It’s important to consider that Indigenous and community-owned lands include at least 1.2 billion acres of forest around the world, containing 38 billion tonnes of carbon stock. FSC standards protect Indigenous rights and when it comes to climate change, this is an impactful measure that helps mitigate global warming by maintaining or increasing carbon sequestration.
2020 has proven that rapid change can happen
The pandemic has offered us a global lesson on how to work together to manage crises and accelerate change. Governments and businesses have created bold programmes almost overnight, spilled open budgets and intervened in unprecedented fashion to protect people’s health and jobs. There is no reason why this same collective approach cannot be applied to the climate crisis.
FSC certification is poised to help. Our strong membership network, comprising leaders from industry, environmental, social and Indigenous Peoples, is well positioned to find joint solutions to global problems, including our green recovery from COVID-19.
In fact, as an organisation that has historically relied on in-person audits, FSC has already shifted operations to offer virtual assessments, and we are now exploring satellite imagery to help inform decisions for areas of higher risk around the world. This technology will enable us to see the state of the world’s forests more clearly than ever before, bringing new, accurate ways to measure the impact of protecting these lands.
Even local efforts can support global goals. We’ve seen evidence of this throughout our diverse membership, our multi-stakeholder approach and our collaborative efforts, which support several United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development while also reflecting the needs of local forests for all of our members, who are located in 80 countries around the world.
Importantly, many companies are in fact reconfirming or advancing sustainability strategies, developing new partnerships, and working toward coordinated action. Individuals can decide to buy products from sustainable sources, support organisations that promote inclusion and sustainability, and vote for political parties that have a plan to fight climate change. These efforts, combined across countries, can have profound impact.
It’s time to be heard
This FSC Friday, let’s focus on the incredible ability that forests all over the world have to support humans, plants and animals and put the welfare of our natural environment at the centre of the decisions we make.
Join us in raising awareness about the importance of responsible forestry and the need for real change by sharing this story on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. #FSCFriday2020 #ForestsForAllTogether