Early warning systems and controlled burning for forest fire management in talks at UN Forum on Forests

By end of forum on May 10, declaration aims to achieve agreement on a high-level political commitment to forest protection

Photo for representation: iStock

Delegates at 19th Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF19) on May 8, 2024 entered into informal negotiations over the draft texts of the High-Level Declaration. UNFF19 being held from May 6-10, 2024 in New York, United States. 

The omnibus resolution failed to reach consensus on many issues, leading to significant compromises.

By the end of the forum on May 10, the declaration aims to achieve agreement on a high-level political commitment to forest protection, with specific actions for effective implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF) by UNFF and its stakeholders.

Read more: Combating forest fires in focus on Day 1 of UN forum; India shares revised National Forest Policy

UNF19 Vice-Chairs Jaroslav Kubišta (Czechia), who co-facilitated with Leticia Zamora Zumbado (Costa Rica), noted the negotiations had seen little progress.

The delegates debated whether to include or exclude other environmental agreements, focusing particularly on references to the Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

A UN press release noted:

In the paragraph on approaches to forest fires and wildfires, debate focused on including early-warning systems or certain management practices such as controlled burning. There was strong support to include reference to different national circumstances and the specific challenges faced by developing countries.

The delegates agreed to implement the UN forest instrument, the UNSPF, and to recognise the role of forests in sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

During the omnibus resolution, delegates expressed concerns about the limited time available for reviewing large portions of text added late, despite consultations occurring over the past few months.

Read more: Climatisation caused by commercialisation has reduced forest governance to carbon sinks

They also noted that many written comments submitted during the consultations were not reflected in the revised draft. Concerns were also raised about smaller delegations struggling to follow two parallel consultation processes.

Delegates engaged in a lengthy debate over the definitions of “reversing deforestation” and “forest degradation,” which had been proposed in the draft. The suggestion to replace “forest degradation” with “global deforestation” was rejected.

The delegates observed that reversing deforestation and forest degradation aligns with the first Global Forest Goal, which aims to expand forest area, and with Sustainable Development Goal 15, which focuses on halting and reversing land degradation. This wording is consistent with other internationally agreed documents.

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