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Sustainable Use of Forests: an Urgent Global Challenge

Promotion of Environmental, Social and Economic Sustainability: The use of Sustainable Timber and Forest Products

The climate change and biodiversity challenges to our planet are well known to us. The solutions are before us. Part of the solution is to ensure the survival and sustainable use of the world’s forest resources. This is not eco-colonialism or dictating to the world how to use its forest resources. It also is not about lecturing others about climate change to give richer nations licence to continue to pollute and threaten the biosphere with carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels or our increasing appetite for meat, palm oil and other products from land cleared of trees. Sustainable environmental management is a challenge for all nations, of which sustainable use of all the world’s forest resources is but a part. That said, we know that the world’s forests are threatened by unsustainable exploitation of timber and other forestry products.

A concerted effort is essential from all of us if we are to sustainably manage the world’s forests, the health of which are fundamental to life on Earth. Use of certified products from sustainably managed forests is one action that can build lasting results.

Housing is a major sector of every economy and housing co-operatives, which are big consumers of timber and other forestry products, can make a difference. The Board of Co-operative Housing International considers that its housing co-operative members as well as all co-operatives should make a collective commitment only to use timber and other forestry products from sources that are reliably certified as sustainable by internationally recognised certification schemes.

At the General Assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance in Cancun, Mexico, in November 2011, Co-operative Housing International proposed a resolution that required all ICA member co-operatives to make the same commitment. Our resolution was passed by a majority of eighty-nine percent; the minority voting against were concerned about the cost of certifying their forest products, an issue that is already being addressed by FSC and PEFC.  The ICA therefore:

Acknowledges that forests are essential to life on earth; that forests are reservoirs of fresh air, pure water, and innumerable forms of life; and that forests protect against soil erosion, desertification, flooding, loss of biodiversity and unsustainable concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere;

Recognises that the current unsustainable model of forestry development threatens biodiversity: 33 per cent of animal and plant species have colonized 70 per cent of the land on earth, while forests, harbouring 67 per cent of all animal and plant species, occupy only 30 per cent of dry land;

Realises that deforestation is fuelled by economic imperatives that drive communities toward agriculture, conversion of forest land to other uses and tourism—significant contributors to the release of GHG emissions—as the fastest ways to earn their livelihood;

Understands that the forest industry is responsible for the production of 17 per cent of GHG emissions in the world: recent research attributes 217 to 640 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare, including the GHG emissions from soil, to wood cutting conducted by non-sustainable methods;

Acknowledges that all humanity deserves a decent livelihood and that many communities depend on forests for their survival;

Supports internationally recognized efforts to develop model programs for sustainable forestry that respond to the needs of the flora, fauna and people living in and through forests;

Recognises co-operative businesses’ buying power and their need for forest products and the availability of such products certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification;

Wishes to promote sustainable conduct in the spirit of the unanimous resolution at the General Assembly of 2009 in Geneva calling on ICA members and the worldwide co-operative movement to embrace a vision of energy efficiency and renewable energy;

Calls on ICA members and the worldwide co-operative movement, as conscientious consumers, positively to commit only to use timber and other forest products from sustainable sources certified as such by reputable organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council or PEFC International (the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) and to adopt procurement policies and practices that honour the principle of sustainability in forestry management.

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