20 April 2009Sustainable forest management policy is crucial at a time when climate change, the financial crisis and unsustainable development are posing severe risks to this invaluable global resource, United Nations officials said today. “Forests are not just timber and they are not just carbon sticks,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests, the only global body for comprehensive deliberation on forest policy, which starts its annual meeting today at the Organization’s Headquarters in New York. “At this session of the Forum, member States need to step forward and finally reach agreement on the ways and means to finance sustainable forest management, Mr. McAlpine said. This is a 17-year discussion, and it is time to stop talking and take action.”Globally, forest covers about 30 per cent of the world’s land area, amounting to just under 4 billion hectares, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The World Bank estimates that more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and that international trade in global forest products amounts to $270 billion a year.At the same time, the FAO said, 13 million hectares of forest are lost each year due to deforestation, accounting for up to 20 per cent of global greenhouse gasses, which contribute to global warming.In 2007, at the last Forum, countries agreed to create a historic mechanism for international cooperation in forest management, which Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, called a “milestone.”The meeting of the UN Forum on Forests continues through 1 May, 2009.