Last week governments around the world completed an impossible task – 194 countries came together to sketch out the future of international development policy for the next 15 years. The challenge – incorporate environmental sustainability. The result was a long list of goals and corresponding targets (17 goals and 169 targets, to be exact) in a variety of areas including ending poverty and hunger, protecting the planet from degradation, ensuring economic prosperity, fostering peaceful societies, and mobilizing a global partnership for implementation of these goals. These so-called Sustainable Development Goals were the culmination of three years of intergovernmental discussions and negotiations with participation from a range of stakeholders around the world. The Post-2015 Development Agenda is due to be adopted at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly this September.
2015 marks an important year as the next major milestone for both development and environment policy for the post-2020 world. Governments will produce the next blueprint for global development policy in the form of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in September that will shape policies at the national and international level out to 2030. The SDGs have the potential to substantially raise the visibility of environmental conservation, including the carbon, biodiversity, and water services provided by forests, due to their importance to overall global development.
Forests represent a valuable contribution to global development for several reasons. Forests contribute to ending poverty by reducing vulnerability to natural disasters; they contribute to achieving food security and water and sanitation by regulating rainfall and hydrology; they contribute to healthy lives by providing clean water and reducing disease; they enable access to modern energy by protecting the watersheds that fill the reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams, and controlling erosion to keep them from silting up; and they help combat climate change and ocean acidification by serving as a natural carbon capture and storage system.
The inclusion of strong forest conservation targets and indicators in the UN post-2015 sustainable development agenda is essential in order to ensure effective implementation at the national level, mitigate climate change, mobilize resources to address extreme poverty and promote inclusive, sustainable growth. The attached brief discusses the final outcome on forests and land use in the sustainable development goals and targets, and assesses both the level of ambition and need for comprehensive indicators to measure action.