According to recent research, an area of tropical forest equivalent to the size of Switzerland was lost last year, indicating a surge in tree losses. This disheartening trend highlights that the political commitment made by world leaders at COP26 to end deforestation is far from being achieved.
Shockingly, approximately 11 football pitches of forest were lost every minute in 2022, with Brazil being the dominant contributor to this destruction. However, there is a glimmer of hope as Indonesia shows a significant reduction in forest loss, demonstrating that reversing this alarming trend is indeed attainable.
During the COP26 climate meeting in 2021, a crucial moment occurred when over 100 world leaders signed the Glasgow Declaration on forests, pledging to collectively work towards halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
This landmark agreement was endorsed by leaders from countries that cover approximately 85% of the world’s forests.
Notably, even former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who had previously relaxed environmental laws to accommodate development in the Amazon rainforest, signed the pact. The Glasgow commitment was made following the failure of a previous agreement signed in 2014 to curb the relentless deforestation.
However, a recent analysis conducted by Global Forest Watch reveals that the promise made in Glasgow is not being upheld. The loss of tropical primary forests, which are vital for mitigating global warming and preserving biodiversity, has continued at an alarming rate. Rainforests in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia play a crucial role in absorbing substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. When these old-growth forests are cleared or burned, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to rising global temperatures.
Additionally, these forests are essential for maintaining biodiversity and supporting the livelihoods of millions of people. Scientists caution that the unique functions and ecosystem services provided by these forests cannot be easily replaced by planting trees elsewhere, as these ecosystems have developed over an extensive period of time.
Based on new data compiled by the University of Maryland, it is evident that the tropics witnessed a 10% increase in the loss of primary rainforests in 2022 compared to 2021. A total of just over 4 million hectares (nearly 16,000 square miles) of forest were felled or burned, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide equivalent to India’s annual fossil fuel emissions. Rod Taylor from the World Resources Institute (WRI), which oversees Global Forest Watch, candidly states that the current trajectory does not align with the goal of halting deforestation by 2030.
The urgency to address this deforestation crisis has never been greater. Immediate and concerted efforts are required to protect and restore tropical forests, as they are invaluable in combating climate change and preserving Earth’s rich biodiversity. The international community must renew its commitment to fulfilling the pledges made at COP26 and take decisive action to halt the loss of these vital ecosystems. Failure to do so will have far-reaching consequences for the planet and future generations.