Thank you, Andrew. [I would also like to thank Paula Caballero and John Roome, as well as their teams, for organizing this event.]
I’m very pleased to see so many people here today. We are all here because we care deeply about the world’s forests, what is happening to them and how we can ensure their sustainable future.
There are many reasons why forests matter both for people and for the planet.
Around one fifth of the global population—some 1.3 billion people—relies on forests for jobs, forest products, and other contributions to their incomes.
About 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and incomes. And of those, nearly 60 million people —especially indigenous communities—are completely dependent on forests.
Forests are an important source of energy. Some 65 percent of Africa’s primary energy supply still comes from solid biomass such as firewood and charcoal.
Forests are also critically important to the stability of our planet’s vital systems. They help regulate our water supplies, sustain agricultural production and protect infrastructure. And they help the planet tackle the impacts of climate change by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and enhancing the resilience of natural systems to climate shocks.
Globally, there is growing recognition of the critical role that forests play in supporting sustainable development and lifting people out of poverty. This is why forests were included in the Sustainable Development Goals.
In Paris at COP21, more than 90 countries included forest and land-use actions in their national pledges to support global climate change targets.
Major corporations—including industry giants like Cargill, Unilever, and MacDonald’s— have also announced ambitious commitments to move toward zero deforestation in the supply chain of key commodities to reduce their effect on forest landscapes.
All of this progress is remarkable but our forests still face significant threats. Every year, the world loses about 5.6 million hectar of forest cover, an area roughly the size of Costa Rica.