This year we are about to set the ground rules for global sustainable development and set the stage for making it attainable without exceeding planetary boundaries and irreversibly depleting the natural resources that sustain our life on Earth.
Healthy forests provide multiple benefits and ecosystem services for the wellbeing of peoples and communities across the globe. Forests are very active participants of the hydrological cycle, from which much of water availability for human consumption and productive activities depends. Like the oceans, forests are guardians of climate stability and play a vital role in building climate-resilient societies. While growing, the forests are formidable CO2 sinks, relentlessly absorbing more CO2 than they emit. Then, when they are all grown up, they maintain a healthy equilibrium between emissions and absorption of greenhouse gases.
Centuries ago, in the late Middle Ages, Italy suffered its most deforested period, when population pressure forced to crop all lands available and immense forests were demolished. Among the most harmful consequences, we experienced extensive soil erosion, which in turn caused massive landslides and floods. Today we have learned our lesson: new technologies have allowed increased production from relatively smaller land extensions, thereby permitting the much needed rebirth of forests in hillsides areas and mountains. Since the last century, we have launched massive campaigns for protective reforestation, and today forests in Italy grow at the rate of 0.6% per year; Italians have reached a record 200 trees per head; in the last 40 years nature has reclaimed 3.5 million hectares; the threat of floods has been greatly reduced. Italy is now enjoying the most forested period of its last five hundred years of history.
In addition, we are experimenting with urban forests, that hold the promise of significantly reducing pollution and related diseases, including health costs; avoiding clogged drains through their in depth water-holding capacity, thereby facilitating waste management; mitigating heat waves, and in general improving the quality of life for millions of urban dwellers.
We are aware that much remains to be done. Forests, as well as oceans, are among our highest priorities for achieving sustainable development. We are actively pursuing the implementation of the four forest global objectives, in particular the first one; in so doing, we are also acquiring experience in the sustainable management of forests and we will do our part in sharing this experience where it can be beneficial.
We will continue to play an active and constructive role in framing forest global policy and governance, and since we have supported the inclusion of forests in SDG6 (water and sanitation) and SDG15 (protection, restoration and sustainable use of resources) and related targets, we are ready to support a wider application of the role of forests for the attainment of sustainable development.
We will therefore continue to actively engage in the forthcoming negotiations for the Post-2015 Development Agenda so as to ensure that forests maintain a prominent role in the architecture of the Agenda.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.