Sustainable Forestry for a Green Future

Fig shows strength of linkages of the other SDGs (relevant in the context of Austria) to SDG 15.

Are the Sustainable Development Goals helping the Austrian Forestry sector?

by Hazarika, R.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the member states of the United Nations in 2015 are a group of  17 global goals, which is a call for action to challenge poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation and ushering in peace and justice. With the Agenda 2030 on „leaving no one behind“ each SDG including specific targets has the timeline until the year 2030  to bring in positive development globally.

Forests are a major environmental entity and although forestry is not mentioned as a specific goal, it is included under the definition SDG15  titled „Life on Land“. Within SDG15 sustainable management of forests (SFM) and conservation of terrestrial ecosystems with their biodiversity has been explicitly recognized. SDG15 aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt/reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. But how do we measure development in different countries spread across different continents, for example in Asia, Europe and Africa, with the standard global SDG indicator scales? Again, forests being a central element with many of the other goals on poverty, hunger, health, industry, etc directly linked for development, this paper tries to bring out the links and synergies between the different goals with forests. Therefore it is important to understand that all the SDGs are inter-related and progress of each goal directly or indirectly depends on the other.

Therefore the article  „The Nexus between the Austrian Forestry Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Review of the Interlinkages“ is an attempt to study these interlinkages in the context of Austrian forestry. It tries to bring out the fact that the forests under Goal 15 can have different development implications for different countries on the global scale of sustainability.

Austria as a case study is interesting as the concept of SFM is deeply ingrained in forest owners of the country traditionally with SFM finding official mention in the “Sylvicultura Oeconomica” authored by Hans Carl von Carlowitz, which finally ushered in an era of formal forestry education in Europe. So it is really interesting to see the perceptions of the Austrian forestry sector on implementing the SDGs in their policy framework. Austria comprises 67% of the total territory complying with the EU definition of the mountainous area and about half of the country’s landmass is covered by forest. The Austrian forest cover has continuously increased in recent decades and is presently at 47.1%  and encompasses an important part of Austrian culture, livelihood, biogeography, and economy. A positive balance between the annual increment in wood stocks (30 million m3) compared to its utilization (26 million m3), its high share of forests with conservation and protective function (21.5%), and its focus on multifunctionality demonstrates the aspects of sustainability in the Austrian forestry sector. According to this perception study which was fulfilled by conducting a questionnaire survey and face-to-face interviews with foresters, policy makers and academics, it can be understood that for a country like Austria where Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is practiced since the 1700s  in place do not require global processes like the SDGs to build policy strategies.

Therefore under the SDG progress indicators, Austria might show up at the bottom of the chart but sustainable forest management has always been a priority for the country. This case study also shows that practical sectoral development in the different countries cannot be assessed through the progress observed in the SDG Agenda and it will be different for different countries and  therefore very much situation based.

Read the full article:
The Nexus between the Austrian Forestry Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Review of the Interlinkages  
Hazarika, Jandl in: Forests (2019), 10:3, Article 205

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