Photo | Amazon Rainforest (Credit: Charlie Hamilton James)
By Simon Counsell, RFUK's Executive Director
Britain’s leaders have much to wrestle with in the coming months and years in what they hope will be the formation of a newly ‘independent’ and self-determining nation. If this signals a period of focus on domestic priorities, and more pressure on the nation’s overseas aid budget, the country’s thought leadership in one important area of global policy should not be lost or overlooked.
For several decades, Britain has been a global leader on forestry. Our research institutions are world class and have played an important role in understanding how forests interact with climate, how forest ecosystems function, and how sustainable conservation can be a reality. Many UK businesses have taken significant action to ensure that the forests worldwide they depend on for wood and other products will be there in the long term. The government has played a leading role in important statements of political intent, such as the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests; protection of forests is a priority for many of the UK’s strategic international partners. Britain has provided support to important efforts to stamp out the illegal timber trade and encourage poor country governments to better manage endangered forests.
UK non-governmental organisations working on forests worldwide range from those which run large conservation programmes in the tropics, to groups blowing the whistle internationally on illegal logging and other activities, groups working to increase the sustainability of industry, to organisations such as RFUK itself which aims to help forest people secure their rights. Many of these have worked closely with the UK government, and all have much to offer in protecting forests in the years to come.
Forests are critically important to global climate; they play an important part in the lives of the poorest billion people, and can be a source of enterprise, trade, economic growth and stability for them; they are an irreplaceable resource for British industry; they harbour as much as four-fifths of all terrestrial wildlife species.
With its breadth and depth of expertise, Britain therefore has the ability to continue playing a leading role on this particular world stage. Government leadership on forestry in recent years has been exemplary and we look forward to building on this legacy together for many years to come.