Forest ministers from around the world will gather today to discuss the future of the forests at the start of the Fifth Conference of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) at the UN's headquarters in New York. Greenpeace is calling on governments to bring an end to the UNFF talk-shop which to date has done nothing to protect the forests nor the communities or the biodiversity that they house and create a legally binding agreement that will ensure the protection of the world's last remaining ancient forests.

Since the UN Summit on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, the loss of the world's last ancient forests continues at alarming rates. During the last 13 years the world lost an area of forest greater than the size of France, Spain, Sweden and Germany combined. The many international meetings by governments to address this issue, including the UNFF, have so far proved to be ineffective, unproductive and a major financial drain of public money.

Greenpeace is urging the international community to focus their efforts instead on the adoption of a legally binding Protocol on forests under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which has a much stronger track record in making agreements that are in the interests of local communities, indigenous peoples and biodiversity. This agreement should establish measures that will help governments achieve the global goal set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development 10 years after Rio to reduce and halt the loss of forest biodiversity by 2010, by facilitating new money to fund forest conservation and ecologically responsible forest management as well as regulating the uncontrolled international timber trade.

The last ancient forests in both the North and the South, contain over two third of the world's terrestrial biodiversity. Biodiversity loss is a global concern, which requires global action. International trade from producer to consumer regions is a key factor causing this forest crisis. A strong, effective, fair and legally binding multilateral environmental agreement is essential to help address this problem.

"The current crisis facing the world's ancient forests, such as accelerating rates of species loss and deforestation, requires immediate attention and strong political will to shift the devastating trend," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International Forests Campaigner. "Forest dependent peoples do not need any more recycling of "nice" words on 'UN paper'. World leaders need to take their cue from the Kyoto Protocol and create a similar legally binding agreement for the last Ancient Forests."


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