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[Contribution] Forests and Glasgow Climate Pact

Choi Byung-am
Choi Byung-am
All 197 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended up coming to an agreement, the “Glasgow Climate Pact,” a day after two weeks of intensive negotiations over the course of the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 26).

Unlike before, forests have been included on the key agenda of the UN climate conference. At the World Leaders Summit “Action on Forests and Land Use” event, the “Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration” was announced. Under the declaration, developed and developing countries commit to working collectively to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Also advanced countries pledged to provide about $12 billion of public climate finance from 2021 to 2025 to a new “Global Forest Finance Pledge” for forest restoration and tropical forest conservation.

Moreover, a discussion on eco-friendly production and consumption was held in the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue to prevent deforestation in developing countries caused by agricultural production, consumption and trade, and halt forest loss derived from agriculture.

One of the fruitful outcomes in the forest sector achieved during the COP26 is that countries finally reached an agreement on the rulebook, the implementation guidance for market mechanism in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation mechanism, or REDD+, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, has not been actively utilized so far although the scheme was introduced. However, the agreement on the rulebook resulted in an institutional framework that the international mitigation outcomes can be transferred between countries. In other words, developed countries are allowed to use the international transferred mitigation outcomes resulted from REDD+ to achieve their nationally determined contribution (NDC) target.

Meanwhile, the year of 2021 is a starting point for the implementation of the Paris Agreement that pursues efforts to limit the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. In this regard, now is the time for us to take concrete action to make the earth cleaner and more beautiful.

During a keynote speech at the World Leaders’ Summit, President Moon Jae-in said that the Republic of Korea -- the only country to have succeeded with post-World War II reforestation -- will lead collective forest restoration while stressing importance of trees as living greenhouse gas sinks. He also strongly expressed a willingness that Korea will actively cooperate with developing countries in their efforts for forest recovery and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the entire Korean Peninsula through inter-Korean forestry cooperation.

The role of forests is being highlighted amid the climate crisis because they are the fastest and cheapest solution that absorbs greenhouse gas emissions. Going beyond carbon sinks, forests are the essence of the ecosystem that produces clean air and water as well as a source of biodiversity and fertile soil. The entire world should join forces together to protect and restore forests that have been lost.

The Korean government announced improved 2030 NDCs at the UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, and the target aims to reduce emissions by more than 40 percent compared to the 2018 levels. Also, the country has been enthusiastically responding to the global climate crisis while building a concrete legal framework and system around the 2050 carbon neutrality plan and announcing relevant scenarios.

Korea was spotlighted during the COP26 as the 15th World Forestry Congress (WFC) will open its doors in Seoul next year. The event, which has been held every six years, is the largest international gathering in forest sector and is called the “forest Olympics.” It will become a platform that governments, international organizations, civil society, relevant experts and those who have an interest in forests to gather together to discuss forest issues and come up with effective solutions.

The Korea Forest Service (KFS) will help to translate the political commitments announced in Glasgow such as the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration and the Global Forest Finance Pledge into action at the congress in May next year.

Furthermore, the KFS will provide active support for developing countries to address the climate crisis through forests while expanding the global partners for forestry cooperation beyond Asia to Africa and Central and South America.

Korea has been drawing the world’s attention as the only country that has successfully restored forests. I hope that the 15th WFC will become an opportunity to share the Korean experience and know-how on the restoration to help the world find solutions for the climate crisis in forests.

By Choi Byung-am

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Choi Byung-am is minister of the Korea Forest Service. The views expressed are his own. -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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