UN Forum sets landmark target to increase world’s forests by 120 million hectares by 2030

31 January 2017

New York, 23 January – Countries reached agreement last Friday on a plan that would significantly improve the outlook for the world’s forests, including a target that would expand the world’s forests by 120 million hectares—an area about the size of South Africa—by 2030.

The agreement, on the first-ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests, was forged at a special session of the UN Forum on Forests and provides an ambitious vision for global forests in 2030. The Plan features a set of six Global Forest Goals and associated targets to be reached by 2030, which are voluntary and universal.

Forests presently cover 30 per cent of the Earth’s land area, or nearly 4 billion hectares. Sustainably managed forests are healthy, productive, resilient and renewable ecosystems which provide essential goods and services to people worldwide.  An estimated 1.6 billion people – 25 per cent of the global population – depend on forests for subsistence, livelihood, employment and income generation.

“Recognizing the vital contributions of forests to people, planet and prosperity, the Strategic Plan includes a target to increase forest area by three per cent worldwide by 2030, signifying an increase of 120 million hectares, an area over twice the size of France,” said Hans Hoogeveen, Co-Chair of the Working Group that developed the UN Strategic Plan for Forests for 2017-2030.

Forests have been on the forefront of international policy and political agendas since 1992. Until now, the focus of the global community had been on reversing and reducing deforestation and forests degradation.

“This agreement to set a global target to increase global forest area by 2030 represents a bold, groundbreaking decision by the 197 Member States of the UN Forum on Forests” said Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat.  “The UN Strategic Plan for Forests builds on the vision of the 2030 Agenda and recognizes that real change requires decisive, collective action, within and beyond the UN System.”

He added that the Plan envisions a world where forests are “sustainably managed, contribute to sustainable development and provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations.”

Forests provide goods such as wood, food, fuel, fibre, fodder, and other non-wood products.  They provide a range of ecosystem services, from soil, land, water and biodiversity conservation to climate change mitigation and adaptation, from clean air to reducing the risk of natural disasters including floods, landslides, droughts, and dust and sand storms.

The Plan sets out a framework for action to safeguard the world’s most productive land-based ecosystems and tackle key threats and challenges.  The key mission of the Plan is to promote sustainable forest management and highlight the contribution of forests to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including by strengthening cooperation and political commitment at all levels.