NAIROBI, Kenya, April 28, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Zambia’s forest ecosystems contribute $1.3 billion, roughly 6.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), to the national economy, further highlighting the crucial role forests can play in the global transition to a green economy, according to a new UNEP study.
Commissioned by the Government of Zambia, produced in partnership with the UN-REDD Programme, and released ahead of the High-Level Dialogue on Zambia’s Draft National REDD+ Strategy, Benefits of Forest Ecosystems in Zambia and the Role of REDD+ in a Green Economy Transformation takes a wider look at the value of forest ecosystems.
The report goes beyond elements already counted as value added in Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—for example, wood products—to consider regulating, supporting and cultural services services such as eco-tourism, erosion control and sediment retention, pollination and carbon storage.
Looking exclusively at these additional services, the study found they are worth $515 million per annum, or around 2.5 per cent of GDP. This means that forest services have been undervalued by between 40 and 68 per cent. The inclusion of these additional services elevates the contribution of forests from 3.8 per cent to around 6.3 per cent of the 2010 GDP.
In addition, Zambia’s forests provide about 1.4 million jobs, supporting 60 per cent of rural Zambian households who are heavily dependent upon the use of natural resources to supplement or sustain their livelihoods.
“From providing jobs to regulating water supplies and capturing carbon dioxide, using forests in a more sustainable way is vital to transit to a green economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“At the upcoming climate change summit, the world has an opportunity to limit global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius and limit the impacts of climate change. We need our forests to achieve this target,” he added. “If we work together under the UN-REDD Programme to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, we can cut greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere and boost the sustainable development agenda by safeguarding and expanding the economic benefits of forests.”
According to 2009 figures, Zambia has the second highest per-capita deforestation rate in Africa and the fifth highest in the world. The main direct drivers of deforestation are charcoal production, agricultural and human settlement expansion, and illegal exploitation of timber. The report aims to help change this situation by informing policy decisions on forest management and the implementation of activities under its national REDD+ process.
“This report provides an economic rationale for prioritizing REDD+ implementation by showing the significant economic benefits of doing so,” said Her Excellency Mrs. Christabel Ngimbu, Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Zambia. “Thus, the potential is great for the forestry sector to play a very important role in the country achieving its Vision 2030 goals.”
“It is envisioned that these findings will further strengthen the resolve of the Government of Zambia to address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and to implement the National REDD+ Strategy as part of the country’s broader goals to achieve an Inclusive Green Economy,” she added.
The report finds that cost-effective ways of conserving and sustainably managing forests should be implemented to support growth consistent with the green economy, defined by UNEP as ‘an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks’.
Ways to reduce deforestation and forest degradation include strengthening and enhancing the management and governance of forests at local levels, introducing measures to reduce urban demand for charcoal, enhancing livelihoods and income generating activities that support or rely upon forest conservation and maintenance, and increasing the sustainability and efficiency of agricultural practices.
REDD+ actions that tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and which are verified as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, could lead to results-based payments. One option that could balance the need for economic growth and development with REDD+ results-based actions= is greater efforts to improve the agricultural productivity of, and value derived from, existing cultivated and degraded areas, rather than expansion into virgin forest areas, as is currently the case in Zambia.
At the global level, the value of forests is well established. A report by UNEP’s International Resource Panel Working Group on REDD+ and a Green Economy showed that non-timber forest products can generate four million person-years of employment annually, along with $14 billion in international trade and far more in local subsistence benefits. Additionally, stimulating sustainable management of forests could provide up to 16 million additional jobs globally.
The Zambia forest valuation report is one in a range of country-specific valuation studies that UNEP is carrying out under the UN-REDD Programme to increase momentum for REDD+ implementation at the national level. By highlighting the value added of forest ecosystem services to the national economy and by providing the basis for the country to account for its natural capital in national accounts, including to many private sector actors that form the backbone of the economy, governments are provided with a stronger rationale to use forest resources in a more sustainable way.
Studies have been completed for Kenya and Panama, and UNEP is currently working with the Governments of Tanzania, Nepal, Ethiopia and Indonesia. A synthesis combining the findings of this work will be released later this year.
Source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)