According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 Report, we have just 12 years to act if we are to keep temperature increases to below 1.5°C.

Saturday 21 March marked the International Day of Forests and, while the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that initiatives to raise awareness are likely not to be at the forefront of people’s minds, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge the vital role of forests across the globe, particularly in tackling the climate crisis.

Although momentum is building against a backdrop of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), action is needed to halt deforestation and improve the resilience of the world’s forests to the impacts of climate change.

The IPCC has highlighted the vital role they play in limiting global warming and we must take a holistic approach that integrates responsible forest management, water stewardship and reducing emissions.

Forests are second only to oceans as the largest global stores of carbon. Trees and forests are one of the most effective nature-based solutions to combating climate change. These incredibly diverse ecosystems are the best and most cost-effective carbon-capture technology available. Up to one-third of the annual carbon mitigation needed could be achieved by addressing deforestation and forest degradation.

Forests are key to managing climate change and water

The world’s forests provide vital ecosystem services. They regulate climate and water cycles, provide food, shelter and an income for over a billion people, and are home to roughly 80% of the world’s land-based animal and plant species (FAO, Eleventh World Forestry Congress, ‘Protective and environmental functions of forests’).

Up to 75% of the fresh water used globally for agricultural, domestic, industrial and environmental purposes comes from forests, and 90% of the world’s cities rely on them for their water supply. With more than three quarters of the world’s population facing water insecurity, the management of forests for water is crucial.

Deforestation is responsible for 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions annually. Globally, about half of all forest cover has been cleared or degraded. This is a major problem contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty.

Forests are threatened by growing consumption, infrastructure, and food production. While climate change means that some areas will see a longer growing season, it will also bring about increased losses due to frequency of drought, storms and forest fires, and the expansion of pest outbreaks.

The need for a holistic approach

As countries and companies look for solutions to meet their climate targets and move towards more sustainable development pathways, new and innovative ways to protect forest landscapes are needed.

We all have a responsibility in ensuring forests are protected and managed sustainably. At Mondi, its Working Forest model acknowledges that forests take many forms around the world – from high-yield plantation forests in the south to vast lower-yield boreal forests in the north.

It integrates productive renewable forest sites with effective ecological networks to ensure thriving biodiversity, water and other ecosystem services, with the ultimate goal of maintaining and increasing their natural and social capital.

Primary wood sourcing regions are South Africa, North West Russia and Europe, and Mondi apply a risk-based approach through our Due Diligence Management System to ensure it sources responsibly across its entire supply chain. Of its more than 2 million hectares of managed forests in Russia and South Africa, 24% is set aside for conservation, and the company plant more than 28 million seedlings each year.

Mondi also want to understand and mitigate the impacts of its industry on fresh water resources across both its manufacturing and forestry operations and are continually identifying opportunities to reduce its water use and safeguard freshwater ecosystems on a landscape level. Since 2014, Mondi have promoted a landscape approach to water stewardship, encouraging individual and collective action across entire water catchments. This means working together with farmers, local government, and industries, who all share a common interest in maintaining freshwater ecosystems and services at the water catchment level.

As it looks to the future, Mondi is confident that sustainably managed forests – and responsibly manufactured fibre products – can play a crucial role in managing the climate crisis and meeting society’s need for sustainable packaging and paper solutions.

Read the top 5 stories weekly on WhatsApp or sign up to our newsletter.