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[Herald Interview] Korea leads international cooperation on forestry issues
Seoul to host World Forestry Congress in 2022
Published : Dec 16, 2021 - 20:01
Updated : Dec 16, 2021 - 20:01
Park Eun-shik, head of the international affairs bureau of the Korea Forest Service (KFS)
Forests are increasingly seen as the fundamental answer to resolve the environmental problems the Earth is facing.

The 26th United Nations Climate Change conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, last month dealt with forests as a major agenda.

As countries around the world scramble to reduce carbon emission to tackle global warming, the Korea Forest Service is playing a leading role in the worldwide efforts to save and develop forests, preparing to host the 15th World Forestry Congress in May next year.

The World Forestry Congress, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, is held every six years and is the largest and most influential international conference in the forestry sector.

Forestry and environment experts from governments, international organizations, civic groups, academia and businesses gather to discuss major issues of forestry, and draw national, regional and global recommendations to help resolve global problems.

As it prepares to host the congress, the Korea Forest Service has built a solid base for cooperation at home and abroad, Park Eun-shik, head of the international affairs bureau of the KFS, said in an interview The Korea Herald.

“I believe we have secured a driving force for next year’s congress by signing deals for cooperation with companies in Korea such as Twosome Place, Nepa and Nonghyup,” Park said.

The KFS has also inked an agreement with TUBAn, an animation studio famous for its Larva characters, to promote the congress.

To seek wider participation in the congress, the KFS invited international organizations such as the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) and the Global Green Growth Institute to a tree-planting event to celebrate the International Day of Forests, and held meetings on forestry cooperation with ambassadors of countries in the European Union and Asia to promote the congress.

In a keynote speech at the opening of the 26th UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow last month, President Moon Jae-in requested for participation in the congress to be held in Korea next year.

The goal is to have 10,000 participants, more than some 7,000 who took part in the 13th World Forestry Congress, according to Park.

“We will support participation by various countries through invitation programs for developing nations using nongovernmental donations; have forestry-related universities include participation in the congress in their curricula; and run programs for the youth to encourage their participation,” he said.

Geumgang pine tree forest in Bonghwa, North Gyeongsang Province (KFS)
The Korean government is currently running forestry projects in seven countries such as Mongolia, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam, into which about 6.7 billion won in foreign aid has been put.

Requests for cooperation from developing countries continue, and the KFS’ official development assistance (ODA) budget has been increased from 14.6 billion won ($12.3 million) in 2020 to 18.8 billion won next year.

The project for recovery and sustainable management of mangrove forests in Vietnam, which began last year as a joint program by the KFS and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, has been chosen as a case of public sector innovation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in September.

Next year, the KFS plans to begin new projects to build a forest fire control center in Indonesia and to promote forest restoration and agroforestry in Ethiopia, Park said.

“The ODA and international cooperation projects in the forestry sector pass on Korea’s experience in forestation and build cooperation channels with various countries, which lead to a base for collaboration for corporates’ forest plantation to secure carbon emission rights and REDD+, while seeking to enhance the quality of life in developing nations as part of the government’s New Southern and New Northern policies,” he said.

REDD+, short for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus the sustainable management of forests, and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks” is aimed at preventing developing nations’ deforestation and forest degradation to promote the conservation of forests as carbon sinks.

The Center for International Forestry Research said that stopping deforestation through REDD+, along with other natural climate solutions, could provide 37 percent of the emissions reduction needed by 2030.

While South Korea’s REDD+ so far has been led by the government, but there is a global consensus that private resources are also required to protect vast forests, according to Park.

To encourage the private sector to take part in REDD+, the government has secured a budget to support their feasibility study; provides information for local companies to join a public-private financing mechanism to protect tropical forests known as the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) Coalition; and facilitate communication between the LEAF Coalition and domestic businesses, according to Park.

The KFS plans to expand and diversify REDD+ to the Amazon rainforests in South America and the Congo Basin in Africa.

The KFS is currently carrying out multilateral cooperation projects in the form of ODA through about 10 international organizations and initiatives such as the FAO, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“The FAO has recently requested South Korea to share its forest disaster management techniques with developing countries using its advanced information communication technology,” Park said.

South Korea also led the launch of the AFoCO in 2018, through which it plans to share its forestation experience, technology and policy with member countries, and play a leading role in negotiations on international forestry issues, he added.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com) and Lee Kwon-hyoung (kwonhl@heraldcorp.com)
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