“Forests are an underappreciated solution to climate change. But even more unappreciated is the range of other development benefits created by forests linked to alleviating hunger, providing clean drinking water and even renewable energy generation”, stated Frances Seymour during an interview for Devex, as part of the launch of her new book “Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change”.
Covering 31% of the world’s land, forests play a key role in mitigating global warming and ensuring a sustainable future. Nevertheless, between 46 and 58 thousand square miles of forest continue to disappear each year, threatening one of the most crucial resources for humanity. Despite the efforts made by the “Save the Rainforest” campaign at the end of the 20th century, deforestation remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. Nowadays, it accounts for 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And in the face of the growing needs for economic development, forests are often seen as unused stretches of land with high potential for agriculture or urban sprawling.
Indeed, recent analysis about the Amazon region highlight the resurgence of deforestation with reports showing that for the first time in 2015, deforestation levels rose in Brazil. This rise represents a jump from about 1.5 million acres of deforested land within the world’s largest rainforest. This trend can be explained through globalization, which encourages companies to implement strategies, and take advantage of the different legislation concerning forests.
In Brazil, decision makers are committed to forest conservation. In the last decade, deforestation levels have been reduced by two thirds, even though the latest figures illustrate the weakness of national policies. “We are very uncomfortable with the bad news that we had a rise in deforestation, and we are taking every possible measure to reverse it next year”, explained Mr. Everton Lucero, the Secretary of climate change and forests of Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment. In other countries, such as Bolivia, economic priorities are centered around “food sovereignty”, which drives agricultural expansion. Bolivia therefore already expects to clear nearly 14 million more acres of forest by 2025, and is not likely to reinforce its forest protection legislation. In many countries, the challenge will be to find the balance between intensive agriculture, and the forest conservation imperative. “Our concern is in ensuring that intensive agricultural production takes place within a framework that also provides for sustainable forestry and protection for standing forests” emphasized Victor Yucra, Director General of Bolivia’s forest and land management at the Forestry and Land Authority.
Because the protection of the earth is transboundary, this issue also needs to be tackled by the global community. At the United Nations, it is now recognized that forest conservation can be a catalyst for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Indeed, forests contribute to many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as clean water and sanitation and good health and well-being. Moreover, SDG 15 related to Life on Land, aims to “promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally”. The Climate Summit took place previously, in September 2014in New York, during which the New York Declaration on Forests was released. Endorsed by 179 national and subnational governments, NGOs and companies, this historic deal aims to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and put an end to it by 2030. But despite this declaration, some companies still contribute to deforestation.
Thus, deforestation is currently threatening our sustainable future. Considering that only 15% of the world’s forest cover remains intact, there is a vital need to preserve this resource. In some countries, deforestation is responsible for more than 80% of total carbon dioxide emissions. In the face of this climate emergency, it is necessary to consider forests as essential ecosystem for the survival of humanity, and not as a burden on the economy. If multinational businesses have the responsibility to promote sustainable production and consumption, then it is also the role of policymakers to implement a policy framework that will protect and save the “lungs of the world”.
To find out more please read the following New York Times article, available here.