Global governance in forestry: a cross-national analysis

Jamie M. Sommer

On the one hand, researchers argue that global governance in forestry is fragmented and
ineffective. On the other hand, some argue that global forestry governance is key to reducing forest loss related to climate change issues. Using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression for a sample of 155 nations, this research tests the association between one type of global governance, the number of ratifications of environmental treaties that include obligations to reduce forest loss for each nation, and forest loss from 2001 to 2014. As a whole, it appears that despite a lack of unification of multilateral environmental treaties that address forest loss and the absence of a global forestry convention, multilateral forestry treaties are effective at reducing forest loss. While there are several important programs and initiatives from global forestry governance treaties impact forest loss, the effect is relatively small compared to other factors.

Many researchers in social sciences and international law have questioned the effectiveness of global governance at reducing climate change (Finkelstein 1995; Young 1997; Canan and Reichman 2002; Virtanen and Palmujoki 2002; Karns and Karen 2004; Kirton and Trebilcock 2017). Given the persistent issue of global climate change, we need to continue to find ways to adapt to and mitigate the damage (Biermann 2006). One of the largest detriments to climate change adaptation andmitigation is forest loss (Rudel 2017). Therefore, the issue of the effectiveness of global forestry governance is  articularly pressing. However, there are no multilateral treaties that fully encompass protections for all forests. Instead, there are multilateral treaties that focus on the environment or climate change as a whole that have some provisions for forestry issues (Kirton and Trebilcock 2017). The one exception is tropical forestry treaties, which deals exclusively with tropical forest issues. However, because the world’s forests are not all tropical it cannot fully address forestry protection in general. Even with a piecemeal approach, these forestry provisions in multilateral environmental treaties, when used in combination with the tropical forestry treaties, are not exhaustive, which may lead to gaps in forestry protection (Ruis 2001).

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