YEREVAN, Armenia – On October 23, 2019, the inaugural Forest Summit: Global Action and Armenia concluded three days of insights and shared learnings from some of the world’s leading climatologists, forestry professionals and political leaders in Yerevan. The Summit has been heralded by Armenia’s political leadership and forestry professionals worldwide as a necessary assembly of thought-leaders at an important time. The unprecedented event was co-hosted by American University of Armenia’s Acopian Center for the Environment and Armenia Tree Project (ATP).
Though small in size, Armenia has fought hard to protect its forests and has shown renewed political commitment to protecting, restoring, and expanding Armenia’s forest cover. “Addressing environmental issues, and in particular forest conservation and restoration, are among the priorities of our government,” said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in his remarks to the attendees. “Environmental issues are not isolated problems. They nearly always have a global impact and call for concerted efforts to address them, and in this respect, events that provide a platform for exchanging ideas, exploring international experience and identifying potential partnerships are crucial. I am pleased to see that this conference brings together world-class professionals from whom I am sure we have much to learn.”
More than 350 attendees from 12 countries enjoyed presentations by a host of speakers with expertise from five continents, headlined by Dr. Anthony S. Davis, interim dean and professor at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. Dr. Davis spoke of how forest-friendly policies must be factored into policy-making worldwide, and how the planting of trees plays a crucial role in combating climate change.
Davis lauded Armenia’s pledge to double its forest cover by 2050 as part of its commitment to the Bonn Challenge and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. “In 2050, half of the forest cover in Armenia will be based on decisions made starting now,” said Davis, addressing the crowd on Tuesday. “There should be no greater calling to work together than that information. The future of what you see as a forest in Armenia will be driven by decisions you make starting today.”
Echoing Davis, each speaker brought innovative thoughts and key learnings on the role of forests in national economies, and how planting the right trees in the right places can support communities and bolster ecosystems. Guests learned how forests benefit from innovations on water supply sustenance, international donors, tree biodiversity, and the optimal utilization of nurseries and commercial forests.
The conference underscored the urgency of the climate change crisis and the role forests play in the fight against it. Forests help to sequester carbon dioxide, purify water and expand habitat for entire ecosystems.
Led by the work of ATP, Armenia has seen a rebound in its canopy cover since the 1990s. This fall, the group will plant its six millionth tree in Armenian soil. Founded in 1994 by activist Carolyn Mugar, ATP has furthered the country’s economic and social development by restoring trees across the country, creating hundreds of jobs through tree-related programming and educating tens of thousands of students on environmental issues. The co-hosting of this inaugural conference was done in commemoration of the ATP’s 25th anniversary.
The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment has been on the forefront of organizing policy discussions and debates on a large number of environmental challenges and opportunities in Armenia. The Summit is an example of the Center’s deep commitment to open and multi-stakeholder deliberations on critical environmental issues, bringing international and national experience to identify paths forward.
In addition to the insights and addresses from talented speakers and panelists, the conference provided field visits to Dilijan National Forest and Margahovit Village.
About the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment
The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, a research center of the American University of Armenia (AUA), promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. The AUA Acopian Center’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy, and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.
About Armenia Tree Project
Armenia Tree Project (ATP), a non-profit program based in Massachusetts and Yerevan, conducts vitally important environmental projects in Armenia’s cities and villages. Since 1994, ATP has made enormous strides in combating desertification in the biologically diverse but threatened Caucasus region. More than 5,700,000 trees have been planted and restored, and hundreds of jobs have been created for Armenians in seasonal tree-related programs. ATP works to further Armenia’s economic and social development by mobilizing resources to fund reforestation. These vital new trees provide food, wood, environmental benefits, and opportunities for economic growth. ATP has a full time staff of over 80 in Armenia. The Yerevan office manages four state-of-the-art tree nurseries and two environmental education centers, partners with villagers to create tree-based micro-enterprise opportunities, creates urban green belts for public use, restores degraded forest lands, and employs hundreds of part-time workers to plant new forests.