Climate Change and green growth are at the top of the natural resource development agenda of many developing countries, the latter a means to foster economic growth and development while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies. Let’s take a look at how ICT applications can be harnessed to protect forests under the context of green growth.
According to the World Bank's Program on Forests, in developing countries, an estimated 1 billion rural poor depend at least partially on forests for their livelihoods, and about 350 million live in and around forests and are heavily dependent on them for economic, social, and cultural needs. Many Southeast Asian countries are experiencing large-scale conversion of forests and small subsistence agriculture to industrial plantations. Lack of proper management in this transition period might result in income inequality, loss of access to natural resources and loss of forest resources.
Examples of SMART Solutions for Practitioners and Policy Makers
The topic of ICT solutions for furthering green growth strategies in the forestry sector has been brought up many times on the international stage. The World Bank report on ICTs in support of green growth identified how smart, green technologies can help mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and monitor climate change through improving information collection and generation. Take Lao PDR as an example where an average 8.2 percent growth on average has been achieved in the past years. Laos' landmass used to consist of over 50 percent forest cover during the '80s but in 2013 the forest cover dropped to less than 40 percent. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) techniques represent two key tools for land planning and management, helping to maintain and update the metadata catalogue and facilitate data sharing. Last month, we looked at some innovative ICTs tools such as forest carbon stock and biomass assessment and mapping that help qualify and quantify forest resources.
In many developing countries, the fragmented nature of available forestry information is partially caused by the "case-by-case" approach used when planning and building information systems, since there is no strategic overview between developers. An example from Vietnam, The Management Information System for the Forestry Sector (FORMIS), aims to introduce modern approaches to information management in the Vietnamese forestry sector including technological solutions for information integration, remote-sensing technologies, and mobile technologies.
For developing countries and emerging economies, the transition to a greener economy is both a challenging and a long process, as there are many structural, political, technological that needs to be overcome. In July 2013, the UN Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Development (UN-APCICT) of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched an online training module through their Virtual Academy. This online programme is tailor-made for environment policy makers and government leaders to address how ICTs can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as green growth.
Using ICTs in forestry management is only one potential pathway for mitigating climate change and scaling-up resource management in the forestry sector. To promote green growth, we need a more holistic approach to reshape and refocus policies, investments and spending in all sectors.