Tropical forests valuable carbon reservoir for combating climate change: ITTO chief

Tropical forests are a valuable carbon reservoir at the core of climate-change adaptation and mitigation and their conservation is crucial for fighting climate change, says ITTO executive director Sheam Satkuru, speaking at COP 27 in Egypt

Mon 28 Nov 22


The high-level segment featured national statements from heads of state and government, as well as vice-presidents, deputy prime ministers, ministers and heads of delegations and observer organisations.

In her statement, Ms Satkuru said tropical forests presented a paradox in which they are both a cause of, and a solution to, climate change.

“Emissions from the degradation and loss of tropical forests have long been identified as a major cause of climate change,” she said.

“Paradoxically, however, these forests also have the strongest potential to mitigate the problem through carbon sequestration on a massive scale and to create highly useful wood and other assets in the process.”

Ms Satkuru said nature-based solutions were gaining traction as means for building greener societies.

“Sustainable forest management is one such solution because it generates legally and sustainably produced wood – the most environment friendly construction material – and many other products and services,” she said.

“Tropical forestry that benefits people and nature is important for sustainable development, enabling recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and combating the global environmental crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.”

As a side-event at COP 27 – ‘Collaborative Partnerships on Land and Forest Fire Management in Dealing with Climate Change Issue’ – held in the Indonesian pavilion, Sheam Satkuru said fire was one of the most significant sources of greenhouse-gas emissions in tropical forests and therefore applying integrated fire management in the tropics was urgent. She described two ITTO projects, funded by the Japanese government, aimed at improving forest fire management in Indonesia and Peru.

The ‘Two Leaders’ Dialogue on Global Climate-friendly Forest Policy’  held in the ICC pavilion also  featured Ms Satkuru and Mairi McAllan, Scotland’s Minister for the Environment.

During the dialogue, Ms Satkuru talked about how sustainable tropical forest management can add value to biodiversity, climate change, and livelihoods. She advocated more focus on sustainable consumption and increased attention on tropical forests as a climate-change solution.

Meanwhile, in the Panama pavilion, Ms Satkuru stressed the effectiveness of tropical forests in mitigating climate change. She said using tropical timber as a substitute for non-renewable materials could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and store carbon, potentially for centuries. Noting recent debate on a circular economy, she said it was an important concept that was yet to gain traction in the tropics.

During a high-level dialogue held as part of the ‘Turning the Tide on Deforestation’ session, convened by Collaborative Partnership on Forests, Ms Satkuru said that, although forests had been given insufficient prominence at COP27, sustainably-managed tropical forests were part of the solution to climate change.

“Tropical forests have the potential to absorb up to four gigatonnes of carbon per annum, making them an ideal nature-based solution, “Ms Satkuru said.

“In addition, tropical forests are a source of livelihoods for the rural poor and provide many other ecosystem services, such as clean air and water.”

Sustainable forest management requires long-term commitment from all stakeholders and substantially increased funding to unlock its potential, Ms Satkuru told the audience.

• Sheam Satkuru was appointed as ITTO executive director at the 57th session of the International Tropical Timber Council in December 2021 and took office on February 1, 2022. A citizen of Malaysia, Ms Satkuru was the Malaysian Timber Council’s regional director for Europe between 2007 and 2017 and ITTO director of operations between 2017 and January 2022. She is a specialist in international trade, with strong skills and experience in international negotiations, legal and policy analysis, communications and outreach and holds a master’s degree in law from Kings College at the University of London being called to the English Bar in 1993. She is ITTOs’ first female executive director.


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