Delegates discussed Programme Element I.5, the needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover (LFCs), on 12, 13 and 21 March. UNEP senior programme officer Bai Mass Taal introduced the SG's report (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/4). The report identifies LFCs based on FAO statistics and definitions. It concludes that LFCs require assistance to reduce their dependence on foreign forest goods and services and that they may consider investing in "minimum permanent forest estates."
CHINA sought a unified definition for LFCs and noted that forest cover must be addressed at international and national levels. International cooperation relating to capacity building and financial and technical assistance is needed. MEXICO said all forest types and vegetation should be considered. It is important to recognize biodiversity and other environmental goods and services that are not economically reflected. The UK said a single definition for LFCs will not satisfy all circumstances. Actions should be prioritized, recognizing that all countries do not have the same options and that afforestation, reforestation and plantations are not only applicable to LFCs .
AUSTRALIA said the needs of developed and developing LFCs should be identified. Inventory methodologies and greater emphasis on timber production values are needed. Plantations can protect biodiversity and decrease the pressure on native forest resources. GABON said optimal forest cover should be defined as the point at which a country's supply of forest goods and services equals demand. "Irreducible needs" should be acknowledged to eliminate North-South discrepancies. The NETHERLANDS emphasized the importance of timber and was hesitant about promoting substitutes.
GERMANY encouraged grouping countries based on their causes of deforestation, noting this may also help in the analysis of Programme Element I.2. Inter-sectoral policy development and the establishment of country-specific affordable quantities of forest cover that consider opportunity costs associated with water and land tenure systems are needed. The US welcomed international cooperation concerning technology sharing, as well as joint implementation schemes for carbon off-set and financing. CANADA said developed LFCs should be addressed and recommended the following: participatory forest stewardship; enhanced efficiency of fuelwood; valuation of non-wood resources; and integration of biodiversity concerns into national plans and land tenure systems.
IRAN urged consideration of international causes of low forest cover such as poverty and the lack of technology and expertise. Mangrove forests should also be addressed. COLOMBIA stated all countries should improve degraded areas and that the list of recommendations should be prioritized. NEW ZEALAND supported approaching national level concerns and evaluating the environmental impacts of substitutes.
MALAYSIA asked that forest cover be clearly defined and whether woodlands are included. A methodology for evaluating non-wood forest products should be established. UGANDA noted that it should be listed as an LFC and recommended a less restricted definition of protected areas that would address biodiversity factors in multiple use areas. UKRAINE said a holistic approach is necessary to meet the needs of LFCs and to value non-market forest resources. Methodologies should be developed to promote public participation.
INDIA proposed that LFCs determine their own minimum forest cover within generally established guidelines. Waste of forest goods and services must be reduced. SOUTH AFRICA said it should be listed as an LFC. Although industrial plantations may provide socio-economic benefits, developers should meet the costs. Greater consideration of the non-use values of forests is needed. WWF emphasized consideration of biodiversity values and an integrated and precautionary approach. LFCs should be redefined on the basis of production and use of goods and services.
The Co-Chair circulated his draft summary on Programme Element I.5 on 21 March. The report calls for: a more consistent definition of LFCs, applicable to developed and developing countries; restricted forest areas and permanent forest estates; biodiversity conservation integrated into NFPs; country-specific minimum and optimal cover; efficient use of existing information; security of forest goods and services; and the use of plantations.
WWF urged that plantations be considered cautiously and managed to enhance biodiversity. NGO participation should be increased and a data base for existing information be created. The G-77/CHINA called for a definition of LFCs applicable to all countries; coordination of actions with those under the Small Island Developing States Programme of Action; and genetic resource conservation integrated into national forest and land-use plans. The EU encouraged the development of land-use plans in all countries, especially LFCs.
NORWAY said NFPs and land-use plans should address conservation and sustainable development and that "optimum degree of forest cover" should be clarified. AUSTRALIA stated that methodologies for forest inventories should be better defined. UKRAINE said that restricted forest areas in LFCs should provide food security and acknowledged their link to public health.
NEW ZEALAND, supported by AUSTRALIA, CHILE, CHINA, SOUTH AFRICA, UGANDA and the EU, stated that plantations should: enhance biodiversity; provide forest goods and services; and be managed using indigenous species where possible. GABON said that developed countries should assist developing LFCs in securing their forest goods and services. IRAN said mangrove and subtropical forests must be recognized as well as the environmental and socio-economic problems of LFCs.
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