India wants to play a leading role in climate change and claims that forests play a vital role in meeting climate targets.
However, “conservation, though critical and crucial, cannot be isolated from the well-being of communities that rely on forest resources.”
That is according to the Indian Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, who delivered the valedictory address at the United Nations Forum on Forests last week.
The Forum, which ran from October 26 to 28, emphasised the importance of forest fire prevention, post-fire restoration and forest certification as a tool for sustainable forest management.
An initiative of the UN General Assembly, which in 2016 adopted the first-ever UN Strategic Plan for Forests in 2016 for 2017-2030.
The Plan serves as a global framework for actions at all levels to achieve the sustainable management of all types of forests, including trees outside forests, and to combat deforestation and forest degradation.
In a video address to more than 80 delegates, Indian Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Labour and Employment Shri Bhupender Yadav acknowledged the push towards forest certification and greater transparency has been a challenge for developing economies.
“The issue of forest certification has received growing global attention in recent years,” he said. “The total forest area under certification has increased by 35% (or 120 million hectares) since 2010. Between 2020 and 2021, the certified forest area increased by 27 million hectares.”
However, Minister Yadav said developing countries continue to face several challenges with the forest certification process.
“This includes high certification costs, audit and compliance issues, inaccessibility to forest owners in remote regions, and lack of capacity due to the complexity of various certification standards,” he said.
In April, Wood Central spoke to an informed source connected to the global certification process who said the two globally recognised schemes, “FSC and PEFC, have set up schemes in all the countries that have the infrastructure; the challenge is to now invest in the regions that do not have sufficient infrastructure to support certification.”
“Ultimately forest certification can be expensive business – local offices need to be established, accreditation and certification bodies need to be recognised, and that’s before a licensed auditor assesses the sustainable practices in the forest.”
According to Minister Yadav, the major concern is with small-scale producers, which will be addressed in the next Indian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management.
India’s standard, known as the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), was established in 2015 and achieved full PEFC endorsement in 2019.
In 2022, following a six-year period, India also published its first FSC Forest Stewardship Standard (FSS), which allows the country’s estimated 146 operational landholdings to sell PEFC (and now FSC) certified products through global supply chains.
Of the country’s 80.9 million hectares of forest cover, over 25 million hectares belong to agroforestry land primarily owned by small landowners (less than 2 hectares in size).
“Forest certification,” he said, “can address these challenges” if “all participants work together to create a sustainable future that is equitable, just, and resilient.”
In July, India hosted the G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Working Group where it set an ambitious target of restoring 26 million hectares of forest land and now plans to create 2.5-3 billion tonnes of additional carbon sinks.
It has emerged as a global power in forestry in recent years, with a 5-year outlook published by New Forests reporting that timber demand in India will drive global consumption over the next 10-15 years.
According to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment, India has been a primary driver in the push to have forests managed by local, tribal and indigenous communities, which, from 1990 to 2015, has grown from zero to 25 million hectares.