Lahore: As the national agenda to fight climate change ramps up, one area often overlooked is the role that forests play in addressing this challenge.
Climate change has emerged as the biggest threat to Pakistan’s development over the past decade. This has been apparent from the increase in climate-induced natural disasters being recently experienced in this region.
The intensity of glacial meltdown due to rising temperatures has resulted in destructive floods from 2010 onwards, almost on an annual basis. Forests are significant carbon sinks but their rapid conversion to supply key commodities undermines efforts on climate.
WWF-Pakistan on International Day of Forests, while recognising and promoting the many benefits that forests have, also laid emphasis on the relationship between forests and humans and the importance of a good forest cover for the future generations of the country.
Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan , in his message stressed the growing need of cultivating forests from scratch. “Drawing a comparison between the past and present I believe that the mention of the word ‘forest’ has become more prevalent in our day to day discussions, and rightly so.
The importance of forests cannot be underestimated. We depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Yet, despite our dependence on forests, how can we still allow them to disappear?”
According to a 2015 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report, the forest cover of Pakistan have been reduced to under two per cent of its land area — one of the lowest levels in the region.
Similarly, according to projections in the WWF Living Forests Report, the amount of wood taken from forests and plantations each year may need to triple by 2050 even with increased recycling, reuse and efficiency.
But, according to WWF-Pakistan’s experts this growing market for wood can motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests with a more sustainable plan to utilise the bounties of the forest.
In this regard, the organisation and the Federal Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) through its Office of the Inspector General of Forests (OIGF) are implementing the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Readiness Preparation Project. Major objectives of the project are to develop the national REDD+ strategy and its implementation framework, management and institutional arrangements for REDD+ implementation, development of baselines (forests reference emission levels/ reference levels), development of the national forest monitoring system including measurement, reporting and verification systems, development of social and environmental safeguards and capacity building outreach and awareness raising.
Similarly, the organisation alongside monitoring the Billion Tree Tsunami Project (BTTP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is also providing expert opinion for the successful implementation of the project.
Terming the successes on ground phenomenal, Rab Nawaz, Senior Director programmes WWF-Pakistan , believes that a precedent has been set for other provinces to follow suit. “The agriculture, forestry and land-use sectors account for about a quarter of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are the largest sources after cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships combined.
By reducing forest loss and increasing the forest cover, we can reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. It's that simple,” he said.
On the eve of the international of day of forests, WWF-Pakistan also extended its expertise to South Punjab Forest Company (SPFC), Government of Punjab and signed an MoU in order to promote responsible and commercial forestry in Punjab.
WWF on the global front advocates for a transformed forest sector to ensure that vulnerable forests will be protected from illegal logging, encroachment or conversion, and that there will be no more plantations that displace communities or take away their livelihoods.
Every year, March 21 marks the International Day of Forests. The United Nations has linked this recognition to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, the theme is forests and energy. From planting trees in urban areas to reduce global warming to creating carbon stocks by increasing plantations, all activities are driven by this approach.