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The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has aggravated the challenges faced by countries in managing their forests.

Forests have been a lifeline for millions of people during the pandemic. Some of the most vulnerable segments of society, especially the rural poor and indigenous peoples have turned to forests for their most essential subsistence needs.

  •  This has increased pressures on forest systems, the Global Forest Goals Report 2021, prepared by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations.

  •  The report, released April 26, 2021, draws upon 52 voluntary national reports and 19 voluntary national contributions, representing 75 per cent of forests in the world.

  •  It provides an initial overview of progress towards achieving the six Global Forest Goals and their 26 associated targets as contained within the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2030.

The United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 was created with a mission to promote sustainable forest management and enhance the contribution of forests and trees to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Plan recognizes that in order to create a world in which forests could provide economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits for present and future generations, they will be needed by humanity in the first place.

Quantified goals for forest area / tree planting as reported by countries

CountryOfficial objective as reported by countries
AustraliaPlant 20 million trees by 2020 and a billion plantation trees by 2030
BrazilIncrease planted area by two million hectares (ha)
BulgariaNo decrease in forested area allowed
Côte d’IvoireIncrease forest cover to 20 per cent by 2030
IndiaAdd 200,00 ha of forests and tree cover per year
JamaicaNo net forest loss
JapanMaintain 25 million ha of forest
KenyaIncrease tree cover to 10 per cent
MadagascarRestore four million ha by 2030
MyanmarIncrease forest cover to 30 per cent
New ZealandPlant one billion trees between 2018-2028
NigeriaIncrease forest cover from 6 to 25 per cent by 2030
PanamaRestore one million ha between 2015-2035
PhilippinesRehabilitate 1.5 million ha of denuded and degraded forestland
Sri LankaIncrease forest cover to 32 per cent
SurinamePreserve present level of forest cover at 93 per cent
ThailandIncrease forest cover to 55 per cent

The first Global Forest Goal in the Plan provides for increasing forest area by three per cent by 2030.

Climate change and a biodiversity crisis are other big threats to forest ecosystems besides the pandemic.

The ‘Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) had highlighted that one million species were at risk of extinction and that 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost from 1980-2000.

The report called for a future course of action that included greater sustainability and a greener and more inclusive economy to tackle the threats of COVID-19, climate change and the biodiversity crisis faced by forests.

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