Deforestation could be stopped by 2020

Jeremy Hance
November 28, 2011

 Deforested peatlands in Indonesian Borneo. Indonesia has one of the world's highest rates of deforestation currently. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler .
Deforested peatlands in Indonesian Borneo. Indonesia has one of the world's highest rates of deforestation currently. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler .

If governments commit to an international program to save forests known as REDD+, deforestation could be nearly zero in less than a decade, argues the Living Forests Report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). REDD+, which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is a program that would pay developing nations to preserve forests for their ability to sequester carbon. Government officials begin meeting tomorrow in Durban, South Africa for the 17th UN climate summit, and REDD+ will be among many topics discussed.

"WWF understands that these climate negotiations are complex. But we must not let the opportunity that REDD+ presents slip through our fingers. If we get this right, we can safeguard our climate and help people overcome poverty. There is too much at stake to let these talks get mired down by technicalities," Gerald Steindlegger, Policy Director of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative, said in a press release.

WWF estimates that 55.5 million hectares (214,286 square miles) of forest will likely be lost before 2020, but an agreement today, with sufficient financing, could successfully lower deforestation to near zero by then. However, a delay in implementing REDD+ would mean an additional 69 million hectares (266,410 square miles) of forest lost between 2020 and 2030, an area larger than France, says the WWF. Estimates vary, but deforestation and forest degradation accounts for at least 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The report adds that nations cannot depend on reforestation and plantations to offset deforestation emissions until 2040 at the earliest. Instead, forest protection now is vital.

"Our forests are disappearing while we sort out how to save them," said Bruce Cabarle, Leader of WWF’s Forest and Climate Initiative. "This continued loss of forests will have dire consequences for our global climate, for nature and for the livelihoods of billions of people. And we know we can’t plant our way out of the problem. The message is clear—we must act now to protect the world’s forests for good or we’ll lose them forever."

To achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, the international community would need to support REDD+ efforts to the tune of $30-53 billion annually.

Deforestation doesn't just impact climate change. The loss of the world world's forests are depleting global biodiversity, imperiling freshwater sources, impacting rain patterns, and threatening indigenous populations among other issues.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 28, 2011).

Deforestation could be stopped by 2020.