“As a grass roots organization, we are extremely important role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as we can deliver them on the ground,” said Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International, as he opened the 20th PEFC General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland.
“We can through our work in the forest and with forest-dependent people and communities directly contribute to 14 out of the 17 goals. We are committed to making the largest possible contribution to realizing these important goals.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are an intergovernmental set of aspiration goals with 169 targets with the objective to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice. They are part of the part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and were adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015.
“80% of the world’s poorest live in and around forests, we have a role to play to enable these communities to have sustainable livelihoods and pull them out of poverty in a way that no one has been able to do before,” continued Mr. Gunneberg. “Our work must go beyond forest management, we must put stronger emphasis on non-wood products, on trees outside forests, on a landscape approach. We need sustainable landscapes for sustainable livelihoods.”
“100 million people are still without homes, 1 billion people are living in slums – the world needs more homes,” said Mr. Gunneberg, referencing goal SDG 11. “If you build a standard house from wood, it has 50% less greenhouse gas emissions throughout its lifetime than a house built from concrete. So what should be we build these new homes from? Concrete or wood?”
Mr. Gunneberg also highlighted some of the work undertaken by PEFC members from around the world. From the Guinness World Record tree planting by SFI in North America, the huge level of PEFC-certified wood used in the Milano Expo 2015, and efforts by stakeholders in New Zealand and India gain membership in the PEFC alliance.
“Though we have had many exciting and positive events this year, we must also mention the sad loss of our dear friend and college Richard Stanton,” said Mr. Gunneberg, commenting on the tragic loss of Richard Stanton, AFS National Secretary General, earlier this year in a bicycle accident. “We were proud to participate in the Richard Stanton Memorial Trophy for Excellence in Forestry Management. We miss him dearly and we will continue to support this award.”
In closing his speech, Mr. Gunneberg thanked all the members, staff and board for the work done over the past year: “All of this is not possible without all of you… Our global strength is our local strength.”