Investing an additional $40 billion annually in the forestry sector can halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by about 140 per cent by the year 2050, and catalyse the creation of millions of new jobs, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Backed by the right kind of enabling policies, such an investment – equivalent to about two-thirds more than what is spent on the sector at present – could also remove an extra 28 per cent of carbon from the atmosphere, thus playing a key role in combating climate change, says the UN report “Forests in a Green Economy: A Synthesis.’’

The report underlines that natural capital such as forests can represent up to 90 per cent of the GDP of the rural poor. India is among a dozen countries taking the global findings of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity into national assessment that in turn could translate the value of nature and its services into national accounts. Carefully planned investments would also contribute to increased employment from 25 million now to 30 million by 2050.

Green India Plan

Speaking at a function where the report was released to mark the World Environment Day, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said we must leverage forward-looking policies that conserve and improve the quality of our forests, while generating employment and socio-economic returns for local communities.

Here, he cited Green India Plan launched by the government wherein $10 billion would be spent over the next 10 years to improve the quality of forests and increase the green cover by involving the local communities, the civil society and the elected representatives. The Forest Department would play only a technical role in the entire process. This, he said, would help in checking the declining carbon sequestration due to high economic growth. The Green India Plan aims to increase forest-based incomes for three million households.

Unhappy with the “misuse” of subsidies, Mr. Ramesh said subsidies should be target like subsidising cooking gas for 1,72,000 villages that depend on forest wood for cooking. Cooking gas would not only empower women but also prevent degradation of forests and checking carbon emission. “Instead we are giving subsidy on kerosene which is being used to run diesel generator sets for mobile towers. Sometimes hard, though unpopular, decisions have to be taken,’’ he said.