Until the advent of fossil fuels, for thousands of years, wood was the primary source of energy for human populations. Today, over 2 billion people worldwide, in rural and urban areas, still rely on wood for their primary energy needs. Wood constitutes the primary source of energy for cooking and heating in many developing countries, where nearly 90 per cent of fuelwood and charcoal is consumed.
Regions with the greatest incidence of poverty, most notably Sub-Saharan Africa and low income households in Asia, are also the most dependent on fuel wood. At the same time, the use of unsustainably harvested fuelwood, which often occurs in these areas, continues to be a challenge which has negative economic and environmental impacts.
Developing countries are not the only ones dependent on forests for energy. Bio energy from forest biomass (in various forms, including pellets, sticks and sawdust) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. Countries across Europe are converting their power plants from using only coal to a mix of coal and wood products to meet renewable “carbon neutral” energy goals.
Technological advancements in the production of biomass energy, along with growing concerns over rising greenhouse gas emissions, make it increasingly likely that biomass energy from forest products will continue to serve as an important source of renewable energy in all countries in the future.
In recognition of these important inter-linkages between forests and energy, the central theme of the 2017 International Day of Forests is “Forests and Energy.” The need for sustainable management of forests and sustainable energy resources has also been recognized in SDGs 7 and SDG 15 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The International Day of Forests, observed on 21 March every year, provides a global platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees. The United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat of UN DESA will organize a special event in celebration of the International Day of Forests on 21 March at UN Headquarters in New York, which will highlight how forests and energy are essential for the well-being of local communities and in green infrastructure for economic development. The event to be held in the ECOSOC Chamber, from 10 am to 1 pm, will also feature remarks by senior UN and government officials, a technical panel discussion as well as a general discussion by UN Member States and UN entities.
The International Day of Forests was established by the UN General Assembly in 2012. Activities held range from scientific conferences and workshops, to art exhibits, tree-planting and community-level events. The theme of the International Day reflects the multi-faceted aspects of forests, highlighting the many ways forests contribute to our daily lives and global sustainability.
For more information: International Day of Forests
Photo credit: UN Photo/Olivier Chassot