“Korea has long been regarded as a representative country for successful reforestation,” said Minister of Korea Forest Service (KFS) Choi Byeong-am.
In an interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, KFS chief Choi said, “Korea has been recognized internationally for its sustainable forest management thanks to the success of forest reforestation.”
Choi continued to say, “In terms of not only resource policies such as forest reforestation and management, but also forest recreation and welfare, Korea is in the spotlight in the international community.”
The followings are excerpts of the Korea Post interview with KFS Minister Choi Byeong-am.
Question: Korea is widely known as a successful country for reforestation. If there is a case in which Korea's forest policy has been internationally recognized recently, please let me know.
Answer: As an advanced country in the forestry sector, Korea has long been regarded as a representative country for successful reforestation.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) evaluated that Korea was the only developing country that succeeded in reforestation after World War II (1982).
Following the success of forest reforestation, Korea has recently been recognized internationally for its sustainable forest management.
With the introduction of a forest management system such as village based forest rehabilitation, Unlike previous studies, this UN Food and Agriculture Organization report has high value in terms of time-series ('90~'15) comparison of 'forest management performance per unit area'.
In addition to the pride that Korea planted 10 billion trees during the past reforestation period ('73-'87) to cultivate a green forest, sustainable forest management performance since 1990 has also been proven to be the best in the world.
In particular, there is a high demand for Korea's advanced forest recreation and forest welfare technology transfer to developing countries.
In fact, we have supported the creation of a natural recreation forest that can help the local economy while conserving forests, such as the creation of a forest recreation ecotourism center in Lombok, Indonesia and the Cambodia eco-tourism project. We are also spreading various projects such as forest education programs.
Q: An international conference was held despite the recent COVID-19 situation. Would you explain the conference in detail?
A: The ‘2021 P4G Seoul Summit’, which was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 situation, was held in hybrid form on May 30-31.
The government designated the week preceding this as ‘P4G Green Future Week’ (May 24~29,2021), and held a variety of side events.
During Green Future Week, a special session was held that comprehensively reviewed the recent trends in international discussions on climate and environment and policy concerns.
The Korea Forest Service also planned and hosted a special session and introduced our forestry policy to the international community.
This special session on forests was attended by speakers from governments, international organizations, and companies from around the world, including a US Senator and heads of international forest organizations. from governments, international organizations, and companies from around the world.
The participants had an opportunity to re-examine and agree on the role of forests for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and peace-building.
In addition, President Moon Jae-in delivered an opening address in the dense forest created with augmented reality technology.
President Moon emphasized that Korea was evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1982 as the only developing country that succeeded in reforestation after World War II, just 20 years after starting forest along with economic growth.
In addition to this, the Korea Forest Service has been participating in various international discussions to discuss the role of forests in responding to climate change and to strengthen Korea's status despite the COVID-19 situation.
In April, we participated in the 16th United Nations Forest Forum (UNFF) to share Korea's carbon-neutral strategy in the forestry sector to respond to climate and biodiversity crises, and, at the request of the Australian government, innovative forest disaster management including forest fire policy. Technology was also introduced to the international community.
The forestry, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue is ultimately a discussion to increase consensus one by one for the introduction of a carbon border tax, which is being institutionalized by the British government, the EU, and more recently in the United States.
In the forestry sector, we are actively participating in discussions to ensure sustainable and responsible timber production, consumption, and trade in relation to FACT.
Going forward, the Korea Forest Service will strive to provide meaningful results on the role of forests in responding to climate change at COP26, which will be held in November of this year.
Q: Korea is a successful country in reforestation recognized by the international community. If there is a forest policy that is leading internationally, please introduce it.
A: I would like to introduce four international forest policies that the Korean government is leading.
FirstFirst is the ‘Changwon Initiative’ proposed by the Korean government to green dry land around the world.
The Changwon Initiative, which started as a performance project when the 10th UNCCD Convention on the Prevention of Desertification was held in Changwon, Gyeongnam in 2011, established a new concept of neutralization of land degradation and reached the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goal 15. Life on Land. It played a key role in its adoption.
In addition, the dry land greening project supported through the Changwon Initiative has been promoted in 16 countries, and the results of the project are being supported through the Conference of the Parties.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Changwon Initiative, and a meaningful event is being prepared in Changwon on October 15.
We plan to look back on the achievements of the Changwon Initiative and seek new development directions through partnerships with the private sector.
In this event, as a side event that the general public can participate in, a mountain movie screening, a video contest to prevent desertification, and a non-face-to-face choral contest with the theme of forest and nature are also being held.
If you are interested, please check the website of the Korea Forest Service and participate.
Second is a cooperation project called the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM) that has been promoted with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since 2014.
Third, the Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (FERI) has been implemented in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 2015. It helps developing countries not only to improve their national biodiversity plans but also to achieve global biodiversity goals through various capacity-building activities.
Lastly, the Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) was proposed by the Korean government and adopted at the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2019.
The PFI is a global policy program that aims to establish trust and peace in conflict-affected areas in countries sharing borders through supporting cooperative projcets of land and forest rehabilitation.
The Korea Forest Service (KFS) will make efforts to expand the PFI to more countries around the world to promote the United Nation Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
The Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) is a program that contributes to the achievement of international ecological restoration goals and ultimately promotes trust and peace by supporting joint cooperative projects such as restoration of degraded forests between neighboring countries that border each other.
The Korea Forest Service plans to make efforts to establish the Peace Forestry Initiative as representative official development assistance (ODA) project through joint forestry cooperation between neighboring countries, and actively contribute to responding to climate crises in developing countries.
Q: I have heard that the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) is an international organization in the forestry sector that was launched under the leadership of Korea. Would you comment on the AFoCO?
A: AFoCO was established by the Korean government’s proposal at the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit (Sep. 2009) to respond to international forestry issues such as climate change and forest restoration and to strengthen cooperation in the forestry sector among Asian countries. Its Secretariat is located in Seoul, and has total of 15 member countries (including 2 observers).
It was officially launched as an international organization when the establishment agreement went into effect in April 2018.
AFoCO is carrying out various projects of forestry cooperation in Asia. In particular, we are propelling forest restoration projects such as residents-led restoration of damaged forests in Laos, timber production promotion project in the Philippines, and income source development projects.
The Laos project is an example of applying Korea’s forest reforestation model to another country. It supports the residents to form a village to produce seedlings and promote forest protection activities.
With the introduction of a forest management system such as village based forest rehabilitation, it has taken its place systematically, contributing greatly to the recovery of the local forest ecosystem and increase of income.
In December of last year, AFoCO acquired UN General Assembly’s observer status, expanding its reach as an international organization that participates in the UN’s discussions on sustainable development and green growth.
Also, in April of this year, it was included in the OECD DAC List of ODA-eligible international organizations.
Accordingly, it is expected to increase competitiveness and play a pivotal role in forestry cooperation in Asia by diversifying financial resources through cooperation with other donors as well as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the World Bank, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
In July, the headquarters agreement with the Korean government went into effect, and its capabilities and value were recognized in the international community.
The Korea Forest Service will continue to actively share Korea's forest reforestation experience, technology, and advanced policies with Asian member countries through the AFoCO and enhance Korea's international status.
In addition, we will strive to enable Korea to play a leading role in negotiations on major international issues in the forestry sector.
Q. Please tell us about the current preparations for the XV World Forestry Congress and the expected outcomes
A : The World Forestry Congress (WFC) is the most significant gathering of the global forestry community, held approximately once every six years since its inception in Italy in 1926. The XV World Forestry Congress will be hosted by the Korea Forest Service in May 2022 and held at the COEX in Seoul. Notably, it is the first time the Congress has convened in the Asia-Pacific region since it was held in Indonesia 44 years ago.
The WFC convenes world forestry community members, including the public and private sectors, NGOs, CSOs, scientific or professional bodies, forestry societies, and others who care about forests and the environment, to consider the state and future of world forestry. This may lead to the formulation of broad recommendations applicable at national, regional, and global levels.
The Republic of Korea was selected as the host of the XV World Forestry Congress to be held in 2022, thanks largely to its success story in reforestation and its continued commitment to promoting international cooperation in the forest sector.
The Congress was originally scheduled to be held in Seoul in May 2021; however, due to unprecedented challenges with holding large-scale international conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Congress was postponed, and new dates of May 2–6, 2022 have been announced. With these new dates set, the Korea Forest Service will increase its efforts to assemble a successful Congress in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO).
The world is facing growing challenges to its health and future. Against this backdrop, forests are being recognized as a key nature-based solution to tackle the ever-worsening climate crisis. Under the theme 'Building a Green, Healthy, and Resilient Future with Forests,' the Congress' program consists of a five-day schedule of various meetings and events, including plenary sessions, special events, sub-theme sessions, side events, field trips, and exhibitions. The Congress will provide a crucial opportunity for the global forestry community to consider the state and future of world forestry, particularly in the context of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, while striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The past Congresses defined a vision for forests and identified key measures and recommendations for enhancing its role. The 13th World Forestry Congress held in Argentina accommodated approximately 7,000 participants from 160 countries, and the 14th World Forestry Congress was hosted by South Africa in Durban in 2015, attracted nearly 4,000 participants from 142 countries. By implementing the outcomes of previous Congresses, the advances are being made towards a sustainable, resilient future in the XV World Forestry Congress.
The Korea Forest Service is preparing special events such as the Peace Forest Initiative and the Forest Fire Forum, which will promote cooperation between countries to rehabilitate degraded land and fragile forests. We stand ready to share our experience and knowledge with the world. To build momentum towards a vibrant and dynamic Congress, we will put forth our best efforts for diverse participation, with representation from all regions and sectors.
As the host country, the Republic of Korea will make sure to hold the 15th World Forestry Congress in a venue that is well protected from risks of infection. It will have robust preventive measures in place, allowing in-person meetings and interaction among participants.
Lastly, an advisory meeting is scheduled to pool various opinions from relevant experts in event planning, publicity, and quarantining. Exhibitions and youth programs will be well prepared to build momentum towards a vibrant and dynamic Congress. We truly look forward to seeing you in person at the Congress, overflowing with vibrant energy and lively exchanges.
Q: Please share with us the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project (REDD+) through deforestation and Forest degradation prevention in developing countries.
A: REDD+ is an abbreviation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. To explain it, it refers to activities that promote the maintenance and promotion of forest carbon sinks by preventing deforestation in developing countries.
REDD+ is a project that is reflected in Article 5 of the Paris Agreement adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and is receiving international attention.
The International Center for Forest Research (CIFOR) reported that 37% of the global greenhouse gas reduction target could be achieved through REDD+, and it is evaluated as a cost-effective method for responding to climate change.
Above all, the REDD+ project is contributing to mitigating climate change and improving the quality of life of 1.6 billion people who depend on forests, conserving forests and promoting ecosystem services.
It is expected to become a very important means of protecting mankind and the environment from the climate crisis in the future.
Q: If so, please explain what kind of results KFS achieved through REDD+.
A: Starting with Indonesia in 2012, the Korea Forest Service is promoting REDD+ in four new southern countries, including Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. These achievements are significant in many ways.
First, assuming the passenger car energy efficiency grade 3 standard (combined fuel efficiency of 13.1km/ℓ, annual mileage of 15,000km is assumed), it corresponds to the amount of absorbing the greenhouse gases that about 340,000 cars emitted annually.
When the carbon credit price ($5/ton) applied by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is applied, it can be seen as a value of 3.23 million dollars.
In addition, while carrying out the Korea-Cambodia pilot project, we sought to improve the quality of life of local residents by discovering various alternative income businesses such as beekeeping and cash nut, and establishing a distribution and marketing basis.
Q: Would you introduce the future direction of the REDD+ project of the Korea Forest Service?
A: Since the Paris Agreement took effect in Nov. 2016, the trend of responding to climate change has been accelerating around the world, such as the declaration of carbon neutrality.
After the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Declaration (VIP in Oct., 2020), the Korean government also submitted the NDC goal of reducing 24.4% of the total carbon emissions based on the 2017 figure by 2030 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December of last year.
Of the total reduction plan of about 170 million tCO₂, about 16 million tCO₂ corresponds to the overseas reduction, so we must reduce it through projects such as REDD+.
First, we plan to revise the “ACT ON THE MANAGEMENT AND IMPROVEMENT OF CARBON SINK” to reorganize and supplement the role of the Korea Forest Service for overseas reduction projects, and systematically stipulate and supplement the contents of strengthening activities for overseas reduction projects and establishing a private cooperative system.
In addition to these policies, based on the experience of the current Korea Forest Service pilot project, we plan to discover and implement REDD+ on a sub-national level or higher by expanding the project scale.
By strategically approaching not only Southeast Asia, but also Central and South America such as the Amazon, which is the world's three largest tropical rainforest and a representative carbon sink, and Africa such as the Congo Basin, we will build a foundation for diversifying our business areas.
In addition, we will implement a model for private cooperation with companies to maintain and promote overseas carbon sinks.
In connection with the declaration of carbon neutrality of major companies, we intend to prepare and implement a plan to induce direct and indirect participation in the REDD+ project as a means of implementation.
A representative measure is the public and private participation in the LEAF Coalition, a public-private partnership to protect tropical forests and overcome the climate crisis.
The LEAF Coalition aims to sign a contribution agreement with each country's government before the Climate Change Convention COP 26 ('in Nov., 2021, Glasgow, UK), and private companies to submit a letter of intent to participate.
To support this, the Korea Forest Service is planning to hold an international symposium for LEAF Coalition officials and companies in August next month.
In addition, we will communicate with companies from time to time to support companies that are willing to participate in the LEAF Coalition.
In order to use the reduction results obtained through the REDD+ project to achieve NDC, it must be able to be transferred internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs).
Currently, detailed regulations on reduction results that can be transferred internationally under the Paris regime are under discussion.
These issues will be discussed at UNFCCC COP26 to be held in Glasgow, UK in November this year.
Therefore, the Korea Forest Service plans to continuously monitor major decisions made in the UNFCCC and domestic climate change policies, and continue research and feasibility studies to expand the business scale subnational one.