Automatgenererad bild.

18 September 2012

Future Forests at Rio+20

Future Forests was represented at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, publicising the Swedish forestry model.
‘Future Forests is SLU’s flagship for forest research,’ says Annika Nordin, Programme Director and Professor of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

In Future Forests, research is under way on requirements for more sustainable forestry. To spread knowledge of findings from the programme, Annika Nordin was on the spot in Rio de Janeiro. She was sent by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, along with a small group of other Swedes from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
‘We provided information about the Swedish forestry model. Ours was a good exhibition, and we were able to meet and have discussions with many key people,’ Nordin says.

World’s oldest forest conservation law

Sweden has had a Forestry Act since 1903. This law, presumably the first of its kind worldwide, laid down that where felling of woodland took place, new planting was to replace it. The Act has subsequently been amended, most recently in 1993 when environmental and production objectives were given equal weight. This Act is the cornerstone of the Swedish forestry model.

At Rio+20, Annika Nordin and her colleagues held lectures and arranged panel discussions both for the public and for negotiating delegates. A permanent exhibition was also set up in the Swedish Pavilion. One issue emphasised by Nordin and her fellow Swedish delegation members was the need for research on forestry.

‘We need a revitalised discussion about forests and the challenges entailed by management of woodland worldwide. So we tried to hold discussions about this. It’s a matter of taking into consideration every aspect of the value of forests, in terms of economic, energy, biological and social benefits. Thanks to our holistic approach to forests, we attracted highly positive attention.’

Sluggish decision-making processes

Rio+20, a follow-up to the great Rio Summit of 1992, gave Nordin new insights. One was that in many countries there is a trade-off between silviculture and food production: the more forest there is, the less farmland. Sweden avoids this conflict since the land where forest is cultivated is not particularly useful for agriculture.

Another lesson learnt was about the ‘sluggish processes’ that came into play during a summit where most of the world’s countries were on the spot and many key decision-makers could be glimpsed in the crowd. Thus, it was less a matter of presenting new research than of packaging what was already known in an easily accessible way.

‘It’s not so much that the delegates are unwilling to take in new knowledge from the research front. But they’re short of time, and we learnt a bit about their windows for being receptive,’ Nordin comments.

In her view, researchers should be engaged at an early stage, joining the groups that plan summits of this kind. In this way, they can place the best available knowledge about forest and woodland on the agenda.

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