Forest certification and labeling activities that support the promotion of "sustainable forest management" have been making progress. According to the "State of the World's Forests 2001," certified forest area is estimated to reach about 90 million ha. In Japan, forest owners, forest product processors, distributors and consumers, are highly interested in such activities, and establishment of a certification system suitable for forest conditions in Japan has been studied among them.
At the "3rd World Water Forum" held in Japan in March 2003, active discussions were held on the roles of forest in relation to water, with a view to bring about a common understanding of the relations between water and forest. Ministers also stressed the importance of "sustainable forest management" in solving water problems.
3. Japan's International Contributions and Promotion of Appropriate Domestic Forest Management
Japan, as a developed country, is expected to promote international cooperation through various activities so that multifunctional roles of forests, such as sustainable supply of fuelwood and water conservation, can be sustainably fulfilled in developing countries.
Internally, it is important to manage forests in a way that not only allows CO2 absorption volume to be secured but also that fulfills multifunctional roles of forests including water conservation and the supply of forest products.
Japan's forests, covering 67% of total land area, have been enhanced steadily in terms of quantity, as seen in the fact that the standing volume of planted forests, accounting for 40% of total volume in Japan, has been increasing by 70 million m3 every year.
However, due to the price slump and other reasons, the supply of forest products produced from domestic forests in 2001 declined to only 30% of the level in 1967 when the amount of supply reached its peak, and forests have not been sufficiently utilized as resources. This may cause a decline in the level of forest management, and thereby may obstruct the fulfillment of multifunctional roles of forests.
The world's forests have been decreasing and deteriorating due to excessive utilization, while Japan's forests may deteriorate for opposite reasons; forests are not adequately managed since they are not utilized as a resource.
Since Japan is one of the world's major timber importers, it is Japan's responsibility as a member of the international community to sufficiently utilize domestic forests as resources, from the viewpoint of promotion of "sustainable forest management" in the world. This is a task that would inevitably arise in establishing a resource recycling society.
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