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World's Boreal Forests:

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Canadian National Forest Strategy

THE GLOBAL VIEW: Canada on Stage

Forest issues are high on the international agenda, and their resolution remains a major challenge because of their magnitude and complexity. The size and ecological importance of Canada's forests have led us to recognize that they must be managed to reflect the range of local, national and global values -- a task requiring much effort on the part of Canada's forest community as it seeks to balance sometimes conflicting priorities. At the same time, sound forest management in other countries means that Canadians accrue benefits through the conservation of genetic resources, enriched biological diversity, carbon sequestration, improved environmental stability and enhanced national security and well-being.

The importance to Canada of its forests from environmental, economic, social, cultural and international perspectives places sustainable forest management high on Canada's foreign policy agenda. It also affirms the need to ensure there is a clear understanding of the Canadian context when issues are discussed in the global arena.

Since forests are essential for human life and well-being, the continuation of unsustainable forest practices worldwide has implications, among other things, for traditional lifestyles of those who depend on forests for their survival; the habitat of migratory birds; the protection of species against extinction; the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; and climate change.

The forest industry is important in every region of Canada and is a mainstay in 337 communities. One of every 17 jobs in Canada is tied to the forest sector. Among exports, forest products represent the largest net proportion of the country's merchandise trade and account for 19 percent of the world's forest products exports. In addition, Canada's forests are increasingly managed for values other than timber. With this as a backdrop, improving sustainable forest management, both domestically and internationally, is fundamental to promoting Canada's interests. International solutions that fail to take these factors into account will impose unnecessary costs on Canadians and the world.

Much has been accomplished internationally, as illustrated in the following examples:

  • One of the main outcomes of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was the non-legally- binding forest principles which Canada was instrumental in negotiating. Other outcomes included the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The latter was the object in 1997 of the Kyoto Protocol to the FCCC.
  • Canada is a participant in the Timber Working Group of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Canada also led the way to an international process to develop and implement national-level criteria and indicators (C&I) for sustainable forest management, introduced C&I at the 1992 Earth Summit and elaborated the concept resulting in the Montreal Process on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests (the Montreal Process).
  • In 1997, the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) within the United Nations submitted a final report to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) that contained more than 140 proposals for action. World leaders attending the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly launched the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) as follow-up mechanism. The IFF will report to the CSD in the year 2000.

Although progress is being made both on global forest policy and on actual forest management practices, many matters critical to Canada are not yet resolved. Perhaps most important is the development of a common definition of sustainable forest management for all types of forests and all forest values. As Canada is the world's largest exporter of forest products, customers, retailers and other countries scrutinize our forest policies and practices. Therefore, we will strive to help foreign consumers of Canadian forest products make informed assessments of them. Canada will also continue to pursue a common inter-national understanding of what constitutes sustainable forest management, through the various frameworks of criteria and indicator frameworks being implemented at national and sub-national levels.

Despite efforts to improve sustainable forest management worldwide, deforestation continues at an alarming rate in the absence of international agreements or coordination, or a common global agenda for action. A growing number of developed and developing countries are joining Canada in recognizing the need for a coherent framework for establishing and coordinating international obligations that affect the management of all types of forests. In Canada's view, a dedicated international convention or agreement on forests would provide a comprehensive and coherent framework of forest-related commitments, sanctioned at the highest political levels.

Many of the most pressing and complex forest problems occur in developing countries and are not related to trade. Globally, the bulk of wood products is produced and consumed domestically. The use of forests for fuelwood accounts for more than half the world's annual harvest and 80 percent of the timber production of developing nations. In tropical countries, deforestation is mainly caused by factors such as large economic development programs and the conversion of forests to agriculture. An important obstacle to progress is a lack of capacity to deal with these issues. For more than 30 years, Canada has helped enhance forest management in developing countries and continues to provide significant international assistance for forestry projects. Many non-governmental organizations in Canada make substantial contributions.

Canada's daunting but essential task before the year 2000 is to work with other nations through the IFF to implement the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. Canada will also continue to build global consensus on further actions that are necessary to improve sustainable forest management worldwide, notably on launching negotiations for an international legally binding agreement on forests.

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Maintaining the health of Canada's forest ecosystems will ensure their continued contributions to the health of the earth's environment.

Maintaining a prosperous and diversified forest-based economy contributes to Canada's capacity to conserve its forest ecosystems and maintain high environmental standards.

Progress toward sustainable forest management in Canada requires the continued integration of forest ecosystem needs with the interests of forest-based communities, as well as with the concerns of domestic and international forest product markets.

Cooperation among nations is essential to enhance the capacity of countries to maintain, improve and rehabilitate the health of the world's forests.

Canada has a responsibility to assist and work cooperatively with other nations in the sustainable management of forests.

Respect for international obligations is necessary for achieving sustainable forest management.

Framework for Action

We will maintain, enhance and demonstrate the contribution that forest ecosystems make to the health of the planet:

9.1 By continuing to inform the international forest community of actions taken to maintain and enhance the contribution that Canada's forest ecosystems make to the health of the planet, through, for example, the circulation of reports and participation in international meetings and missions, both to and from Canada.

9.2 By increasing Canadian understanding of and support for the contribution that Canada's forest ecosystems make to the health of the global environment, through timely dissemination of information and analysis reports.

9.3 By cooperating with countries and with regional and international organizations on research and forest policy development through initiatives such as the International Model Forest Network and bilateral memoranda of understanding.

We will work toward meeting Canada's commitments arising from the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change:

9.4 By fulfilling Canada's forest carbon measurement commitments.

9.5 By ensuring that the unique characteristics and contributions of Canada's forests are taken into account during international negotiations on climate change.

9.6 By identifying and implementing cost-effective options for forest sector carbon sequestering and emission reductions to help meet Canada's targets.

We will seek concrete, effective results in international efforts to improve the management of world's forest ecosystems, through cooperation among nations and enhancement of the international legal regime for forests:

9.7 By adhering to relevant international intergovernmental agreements, notably the conventions on climate change, biodiversity, desertification and trade in endangered species.

9.8 By implementing the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and by reporting progress made to the U.N. Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF).

9.9 By pursuing the initiation of negotiations of an international forest convention.

9.10 By pursuing an international consensus on a definition of sustainable forest management through such means as the various national frameworks of criteria and indicators.

9.11 By creating awareness in relevant international organizations and fora of the potentially mutually supportive relationships among sustainable forest management, trade and voluntary certification schemes.

We will assist other nations to improve their capacity to sustainably manage their forests:

9.12 By building partnerships with other countries and international organizations to share experiences and knowledge.

9.13 By working with other nations and international organizations to respond to requests for international aid and by improving the flow of financial, policy, scientific, technical, technological and information support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

9.14 By supporting innovative approaches to achieve sustainable forest management worldwide, as well as by sharing and applying the knowledge and experience gained.

9.15 By supporting groups that value forests and activities that strengthen the capacity of communities to participate in decision-making related to sustainable forest management.

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