Special Exhibit to Mark the International Year of Forests – 2011

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The U.S. Mission is proud to have provided support to the unique Art of Trees exhibition at the United Nations organized by the UNECE and FAO.  The exhibit combines artwork on the theme of trees – including a series of 24 posters by Montana artist Monte Dolack – and beautiful living trees. The trees will be on display at the UN through February 25th. Following the exhibition, many of them will be planted in the park of the Palais des Nations. The U.S. will participate in the planting to take place on or around March 21st, World Forestry Day.  The following are the text of comments made by Ambassador Betty E. King at the opening of the exhibit.

Remarks of Ambassador Betty E. King
Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations

at the opening of the Exhibition
“The Art of Trees: A Forest Gallery”

Palais des Nations, Geneva
February 15, 2011

Good Evening! First, I’d like to thank the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the Food and Agricultural Organization and UN Geneva for organizing the “Art of Trees: A Forest Gallery” and for including the United States in an event that so perfectly commemorates 2011 as the International Year of Forests. As I look around this Hall – I am amazed by the beauty of the trees, the magnificent timber sculptures, and the superb artwork of an American artist, Monté Dolack.

This exhibit relates to a subject near and dear to my heart – the importance of “green” in our lives. We at the US Mission here in Geneva understand the imperative of sustaining our environment and we have committed ourselves to the greening of our grounds. Some of the steps we’ve taken to reduce our carbon footprint include installing photo-voltaic panels over much of the surface of our building and holding a competition last summer among landscape architect students to devise a landscape plan for the grounds. The selected plan would increase the amount of our green space, attract local fauna, and conserve rainwater.

Being involved with this exhibit is a natural extension of US commitment to a more sustainable and environmentally-sensitive world. With evidence of climate change all around us, it is vital that we understand the connections among healthy forests, ecosystems, people and economies. Forests are home to millions of people and to a vast majority of the world’s biodiversity. Forests are a major source of food and livelihood. All of us depend on the existence and health of forests and their eco-systems for our economic, environmental and social well-being.

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In recent years, the science is clearer than ever that forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change. As U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, recently commented, “America’s forests play a critical role in combating climate change, collectively capturing and storing significant amounts of carbon that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere.”

In fact, healthy forests hold about 46% of the world’s terrestrial carbon stores. Yet, when forests suffer from drought, disease, and deforestation, their ability to absorb carbon is diminished and they actually emit greenhouse gases. Up to 20% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and forest degradation. If we are to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade, we must turn our collective energy to reducing deforestation, managing existing forests, and establishing new forests.

Undoubtedly, forests will continue to provide billions of dollars in raw materials for timber, as well as for products such as paper, building supplies and pharmaceuticals. Today, trade in forest products accounts for more than $200 billion globally. But, the question is: How can we more effectively protect forest ecosystems within the context of continued global demand for timber and forest products?

· First, we need to greatly broaden participation in forest management to include local communities, the poor, indigenous people, and women and youth.

· Second, we need to put forest ecosystems into the mainstream of politics and policy as a crucial element of sustainable economic development and human well-being.

· Third, we should identify specific science-based strategies, tools, and ways of measuring the effectiveness of forest management practices.

There is an ancient Native American proverb that says: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” As we look to the future, we have an opportunity today to dedicate ourselves to forests as a priority in all of our work. Forests are the lungs of our world – they should be sustained, nurtured and cherished by us all. The U.S. is optimistic that this International Year of Forests will increase the world’s awareness and appreciation of forests across the globe. And, our hope remains that with the adoption of more eco-sensitive and sustainable forest management practices, trees will continue their critical role in combating the ravages of climate change.

I hope you enjoy the Exhibit both this evening and over the course of the next few weeks. And please enjoy the food tonight – the forest provided great creative inspiration when it came to shaping the menu. I look forward to speaking with some of you a little.