Nairobi, 26 December 2023 — Forests hold intrinsic ecological, cultural, and economic value, covering approximately one third of land on Earth and serving as the home to over half of the world's animals and plants. Timber, aromatic, and medicinal tree species represent some of the world’s most valuable wildlife commodities in trade. Trees are also known to provide one of the best carbon capture systems, contributing to climate change mitigation by storing carbon in tree tissue and sequestering atmospheric carbon from carbon dioxide.
Unsustainable harvest and illicit trade lead to deforestation, not only jeopardizing the delicate balance of forest ecosystems but also undermining the revenue these resources provide to nations and communities. To counter these and other evolving challenges, it remains critical to prioritize nature-based solutions. CITES contributes to this through the regulation of trade in valuable parts and derivatives of CITES-listed tree species, as it ensures that the international trade in wild flora is legal, sustainable and traceable.
On 8 December 2023, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection reached an agreement with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to contribute €10 million to the CITES Tree Species Project (CTSP) on sustainable trade in CITES-listed tree species and related forest governance.
Under the auspices of the International Climate Initiative, this generous five-year contribution marks a new chapter in forest conservation. Currently there are nearly 800 tree species listed in the CITES Appendices.
Since the Convention’s entry into force nearly 50 years ago in 1975, tree species of commercial significance have been included in the CITES Appendices. Examples include one the most valuable and widely-traded Neotropical timber tree species: big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophyllia), adopted in 2002; and African mahogany (Afzelia spp. and Khaya spp.) and Cumaru (Dipteryx spp.), both adopted at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama in November 2022.
The new phase of the CTSP made possible by the German contribution aims to build on and enhance the positive outcomes from previous CITES projects on sustainable forest management:
- ITTO-CITES Programme for implementing CITES Listing of Tropical Timber Species (2008-2016), which was supported by the European Union and implemented by ITTO in partnership with the CITES Secretariat. The programme provided specific assistance to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to design forest management plans, forest inventories, provide guidelines and case studies for making non-detriment findings (NDFs) for CITES-listed tree species and to develop and disseminate tools for timber identification.
- CITES Tree Species Programme (2017-2022), with 17 national and international projects launched in countries in the target regions (Africa, Asia, and Central and South America and the Caribbean). The programme was supported by the European Union and implemented in partnership with the International Timber Trade Organization (ITTO). This phase of the CTSP increased the capacity on NDF methodology among Parties and contributed to the strengthening of forest governance in the target countries.
- CITES-FAO Project on Improved Forest Governance in the Lower Mekong Region (2021-2023), which was funded by Norway through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) Initiative. This project built capacity at national and regional levels for CITES permit management and facilitated the development of the first global repository on timber identification resources and tools.
As the next phase of the “CTSP,” the CITES Tree Species Project will focus on strengthening the linkages between sustainable forest management and the CITES provisions at the national level, to ensure that Parties to the Convention can better comply with the Convention’s requirements for legal, sustainable trade in tree species of commercial significance, improving forest governance and contributing to reducing deforestation and climate change mitigation.
This will involve improving on the efficacy of CITES mechanisms that help to verify the legality of the acquisition of specimens of wildlife to be traded (Legal Acquisition Findings, or LAFs) and ensure that the trade in a particular species is sustainable and does not negatively affect the survival of the species in the wild (Non-detriment Findings, or NDFs).
The announcement of the agreement coincided with the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP28) taking place in the United Arab Emirates (30 November-12 December 2023).
CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero stated: “As world leaders gather at CoP28 to conclude the first global stocktake and strengthen commitments to addressing the triple planetary crisis, this contribution by Germany to the continuation of the CITES Tree Species Project will demonstrate a clear link between the conservation of CITES-listed tree species and actions to tackle two of our planetary crises—biodiversity loss and climate change—through nature-based solutions.”
From 2024 to 2028, this project will work closely with CITES Parties in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean, North America and Oceania.
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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals.
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