Jean Clement (FAO) introduced the Secretary-Generals report on programme element I.4, fragile ecosystems affected by desertification and the impact of airborne pollution on forests (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/17). The report proposes formulating explicit national forest policies that address dryland concerns. It also calls for emissions reduction, periodic assessment of airborne pollutants, research and rehabilitation of affected areas. PORTUGAL and SENEGAL presented results from an expert meeting on rehabilitation of degraded forest ecosystems hosted by Cape Verde, Senegal, Portugal and the FAO. The EU, with AUSTRALIA, supported the proposal to form explicit national policies. He noted links to the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) and supported the proposals for action on air pollution. GREECE, PORTUGAL and ITALY said Mediterranean forests are very susceptible to forest fires. TURKEY noted the upcoming World Forestry Congress in Antalya, Turkey in 1997. CHINA proposed references to international cooperation and the financial needs of developing countries. GERMANY said strategies on desertification should be integrated within the framework of existing forest and land use programmes. He called for strengthening community-based organizations. FRANCE said the reports proposals on preventative and restorative measures represented a balanced approach. He said countries should not resign themselves to pollution but should address the causes. The US noted that the proposed formulation of guidelines for conservation and environmental management of plantations is premature. CANADA said national forestry action programmes provide the best framework to address reforestation and afforestation by providing cross-sectoral linkages, participation of stakeholders, policy and legislative reviews and institutional strengthening.
An NGO representative asserted that poor resource management is not always caused by lack of education but by lack of alternatives. She urged governments to use exotic species only as a last resort and assess effects on local ecosystems. IUCN recommended that bilateral and multilateral agencies and government planners shift investment emphasis away from plantations toward helping governments improve communities tenure rights. AUSTRIA said international strategies should be developed to reduce nitrogen compound emissions and monitor heavy metals and air pollutants. DENMARK stated that providing financial means and setting up incentives for private owners will not ensure successful afforestation efforts. JAPAN emphasized the need for region-wide forest monitoring systems and the testing and application of the critical load approach. An East Asian Acid Rain Monitoring Network will be established by the year 2000.
Bai-Mass Taal (UNEP) presented the Secretary-Generals report on programme element I.5, needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover (E/CN.17/IPF/1996/18). The report states that any area with 20% minimum cover in developed countries, and 10% within developing countries, constitutes a forest. It defines countries with low forest cover as those in which the lack of forests is damaging to ecological processes. SOUTH AFRICA suggested extending the reports definition of low forest cover to include countries in which the lack of forests has resulted in an unfulfilled national demand for forest products. INDONESIA said the report does not differentiate approaches for low and high income countries. Low income, low forest cover countries should receive increased assistance and technology transfer.
UKRAINE stated that large parts of the Ukrainian forest have been removed from economic activity due to the Chernobyl accident. She sought international assistance and technology transfer. CHINA proposed references to international cooperation and technology transfer. AUSTRALIA said that low forest cover is only a crude criterion for allocating forest funding, and that high forest cover countries are also at risk without SFM. The report does not reflect that low forest cover is a naturally occurring circumstance in many countries. The EU called for special attention to the needs of least developed countries with low forest cover. The US questioned the reports differential definition of low forest cover and suggested a universal definition. He said the proposals for action could benefit from increased flexibility.
JAPAN said the report does not classify causes for low forest cover and highlighted the importance of sharing experiences. URUGUAY characterized the definition as arbitrary and said a better gauge was needed to reflect the relationship between ecosystems. The NETHERLANDS emphasized the importance of restricted forest areas. A NGO representative contested the proposal to increase plantation cover without assessing associated financial, socio-cultural and environmental costs. Means to reduce demand for pulp and paper should be explored, particularly in Northern countries with excessive consumption of these products.
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