19 November 2015, Manila – The 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting was successfully concluded in Manila, the Philippines. APEC leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the aspirational goal in the Sydney Declaration (2007), of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020. APEC leaders also acknowledged the progress that APEC economies have made to the goal, as documented in the Assessment of Progress Towards the APEC 2020 Forest Cover Goal prepared by APFNet and FAO, and also called for continuous efforts on sustainable forest management and conservation.
Forest areas in the APEC region have increased by 15.4 million hectares in the period 2007 to 2015, to a total of 2.19 billion hectares. However, differences in forest cover change remain across individual economies.
According to the assessment, broad trends of increased forest quality have been observed in most APEC economies. A significant trend has been the devolution of forest ownership and forest management responsibilities from governments and toward the private sector, communities and households.
“We recognize the important role of forests in supporting our communities, conserving biodiversity, and mitigating and adapting to climate change. We reaffirm our commitment to the aspirational goal in the Sydney Declaration of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020”, the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Declaration stated.
A net gain
Forest areas in the APEC region have increased by 15.4 million hectares in the period 2007 to 2015, to a total of 2.19 billion hectares. According to the most optimistic estimate to-date, APEC economies have achieved 77 percent of the 20 million hectares outlined in the APEC 2020 Forest Cover Goal. During the period 2007 to 2015, forest areas have increased in 11 APEC economies, with the largest increases achieved in China (12.3 million hectares), United States (3.8 million hectares) and the Russian Federation (3.6 million hectares).
Conversely, forest areas have declined in nine APEC economies, with the largest losses in Indonesia (5.5 million hectares), Peru (1.3 million hectares) and Australia (1.1 million hectares). Key direct drivers of deforestation and forest degradation include agricultural expansion, forest products extraction (legal and illegal), infrastructure development and biophysical factors (including climate and weather events, forest fires, and pests and diseases). Important indirect drivers of change are poverty, population increases, wood products demand, governance factors, urbanization, and lack of coherent cross-sectoral policies.
Nonetheless, most economies have increased their per-hectare forest growth stock and total forest growth stocks in the same period, while increasing forest areas and improving forest management.
A diversity of efforts
Since 2007, APEC economies have implemented a diverse range of measures that support the achievement of the APEC 2020 Forest Cover Goal. The efforts include: development of new legislation, policies and action plans; implementation of government and voluntary planting programs; enhanced conservation and protection programs; measures to promote forest rehabilitation and regeneration, and to reduce deforestation and regulate forest harvesting; development of forest-related climate change programs; provision of direct incentives for forestation and improved forest management; strengthening forest tenure provisions; improving forest law enforcement and governance arrangements; and participating in global and regional processes that support improved forest management.
The main risks to achieving the APEC 2020 Forest Cover Goal include major forest loss as a result of natural disturbances and climate-related risks such as droughts, cyclonic storms and floods, as well as wildfires and invasive pests and diseases. Major policy shortfalls could also compromise the achievement of the goal.
However, the region is quite certain that the objective will ultimately be achieved. “Given the progress achieved to date, APEC economies should maintain a reasonable degree of confidence that the APEC 2020 Forest Cover Objective will be achieved.” Mr. Qu Guilin, Executive Director of APFNet said.