Co-Chair Holdgate introduced Programme Element I.4, fragile ecosystems affected by desertification and the impact of air-borne pollution on forests on 11 March. David Harcharik, FAO Assistant Director General, Forestry Department, introduced the SG's report on this item (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/3). Part 1 of the document summarizes the challenges in fragile ecosystems, and the successes and failures in reforestation, especially in Africa. It suggests that the IPF consider integrating plantations and reforestation with natural systems, and strengthening governments' capacities. Part 2 considers forest decline, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. It says the IPF should consider the need for: additional international commitments on long-range pollution; monitoring and research; and an approach that defines a threshold for negative impacts.
PART 1 DESERTIFICATION: Delegates began consideration of Programme Element I.4 on 12 March and highlighted several issues, including: placing the IPF within the context of the CBD, the FCCC and the CCD; an integrated view of underlying causes; socio-economic plans in harmony with afforestation; national forest action plans on the local and micro levels; bottom-up and participatory management and partnerships; the effect of poverty, unemployment, refugees and internal migration; NGO and local authority participation; suitable species for arid areas; land tenure reform; increased financial and technical assistance to developing countries; and the potential of NTFPs and traditional knowledge.
Delegates made several additional points. The EU called for: integrating national plans with evolving international programmes; improving donor coordination; and expanding applied research. SWEDEN encouraged an expansion of plantation research with an aim toward establishing profitable market outlets. CHILE stated that governmental assistance in the form of direct and indirect subsidies and the provision of access to technology has resulted in an increase in plantations and an overall reduction in desertified/arid zones. The US specifically endorsed linkages to the CCD Committee on Science and Technology. INDIA is tackling forestry as an integrated package, including socio-economic and agricultural development issues. He also highlighted the Arid Forest Research Institute, which focuses exclusively on forestry issues. UGANDA noted that reforestation campaigns in tropical Africa have not narrowed the gap between afforestation and deforestation and said narrowing the gap is a priority. BRAZIL could not support statements that plantations are negative as a whole and questioned the asserted sharp decline in the production and trade of non-timber forest products. He said the document did not present a holistic view of desertification. PERU emphasized the importance of addressing population pressures in high mountain regions.
PART 2 AIR POLLUTION AND FORESTS: Many delegations noted: air pollution is an external factor that cannot be controlled by the forest sector itself; technology transfer is needed to prevent and mitigate pollution; the "critical loads" concept is crucial; and cost-effective agreements are needed. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA said an international agreement may be premature and noted the need for scientific evidence and research. He called for a workshop or expert group meeting. GERMANY and FRANCE supported scientific research, raising awareness to influence political decisions and taking measures to improve forest stands. JAPAN noted that urbanization and nitrogen oxide emissions necessitate a regional approach. SWEDEN stated that complex ecosystems such as tropical rainforests may be especially sensitive, and that the problem cannot be solved through forest management practices. CITIZENS ALLIANCE FOR SAVING THE EARTH AND ATMOSPHERE (CASA), on behalf of several Japanese NGOs, highlighted the importance of legally-binding instruments on transboundary air pollution and climate change. The RUSSIAN FEDERATION drew attention to the fragile nature of boreal forests, noting that Russian forests comprise 22% of the world's total. BRAZIL called for a study of natural versus anthropogenic causes of forest death. He called the reference to economic growth and fossil fuels a "sensitive issue" for developing countries that requires further study.
On 21 March, delegates considered the Co-Chairs' draft summaries on Parts 1 and 2. The text states that the IPF: emphasized that desertification and drought are widespread phenomena affecting northern boreal forests as well as forests in arid and semi-arid regions; noted that this programme element should be carried out in close relationship with the CBD, FCCC and CCD; stated that actions to combat desertification should address the underlying causes and consider the role of poverty, migration, refugees, land-use planning, and fuelwood; called for application of bottom-up approaches, involving local communities and NGOs; and recommended adoption of an integrated approach. With regard to the impact of air-borne pollution, the IPF: stressed the need for a preventative approach to combating air pollution; emphasized the need for continued monitoring of the impact of air pollution on forest health; noted that the critical loads approach should be adopted by all countries where forests are affected by air pollution; and stated that national strategies should be developed to prevent damaging air pollution.
JAPAN said the conclusions should not refer to desertification and drought in boreal forests, nor should they address actions already covered by the CCD. The critical loads approach is important, but should only be adopted where appropriate. The US stressed: participation in the Committee on Science and Technology of CCD; mentioning mitigation when referring to combating desertification and drought; and that degradation, rather than desertification, affects northern boreal forests. CANADA supported changing "stakeholders" to "interested parties" and referred to interested parties listed in the Forest Principles. MEXICO called for consistency with the CCD and noted that an integrated approach should also include consumption and production. BRAZIL said the list of underlying causes of desertification should include external debt and trade imbalance and called for more flexible language regarding sustainable development strategies. He suggested that developed as well as developing countries should monitor experience and the conclusions should refer to Agenda 21 and the Forest Principles. He asked whether the "preventative approach" entailed changing consumption and production patterns or required changes outside the forest sector. SWEDEN proposed a sentence stating that air-borne pollution causing acidification is an external factor that cannot be influenced by the forest sector. FAO said the reference to sustainable development strategies should be deleted as it conflicts with a similar reference made in Programme Element I.1. The adoption of too many plans can lead to ambiguities. ECUADOR stated that the report should be amended to reflect that desertification can occur in all soil-poor areas, including humid and semi-humid zones.
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