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Research reveals pledge signed by over 100 world leaders is falling too short: 'We are ... trending in the wrong direction'

Some key countries have been successful thanks to drastic policy changes.

Global Forest Watch

Photo Credit: iStock

In 2021, over 100 world leaders signed the Glasgow Declaration, committing to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030. But new analysis shows we may not be on track to meet these goals. 

Last year, an area the size of Switzerland was lost to deforestation, suggesting "we are far off track and trending in the wrong direction," Rod Taylor of the World Resources Institute told the BBC.

What's happening?

Every minute, 11 soccer fields of forest are lost to deforestation around the world, according to the BBC. 

New research from Global Forest Watch compared current deforestation rates with the necessary pathway to zero deforestation by 2030. The organization found that deforestation in 2022 was 1 million hectares (close to 2.5 million acres, or 1.4 million soccer fields) above the level needed to halt deforestation by 2030. 

The largest portion of these losses came from Brazil, which has seen a doubling in deforestation in the past three years. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed the Glasgow Declaration but still relaxed enforcement of laws that fight deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. 

Why is deforestation so important to pay attention to?

Forests, especially tropical rainforests, are incredible habitats and home to millions of species. They are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Rainforests also absorb large amounts of heat-trapping gases and regulate our planet's temperature.

Deforestation, on the other hand, releases carbon into the air while reducing water and soil quality. It also impacts biodiversity, as some species can only be found in those forests. 

The University of Maryland found that 10% more primary rainforest was lost in 2022 compared to 2021. Primary rainforest is a forest habitat that has never been logged or largely affected by humans. Cutting and burning that much rainforest releases the same amount of carbon pollution that India does in one year. 

What is being done about deforestation?

Replanting trees is a major step in the right direction, but it cannot easily match the benefits provided by primary forests, per the BBC. These centuries-old habitats have improved stability, are better at absorbing and storing carbon, and host more biodiversity than forests that have been replanted recently, according to Treehugger. 

The best tactic to save our forests is to stop deforestation before it happens. That is what the Glasgow Declaration is meant to achieve, but many countries are still falling short. In order to meet those goals, we all must take drastic steps to end deforestation. Some key countries have been successful in slowing deforestation thanks to drastic policy changes.

Indonesia and Malaysia have enacted moratoriums on logging in palm oil plantations. Indonesia is leading the charge in stopping deforestation after it set records for deforestation in 2016. 

Brazil's future is also looking promising, as its current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has promised to reverse the damage done by his predecessor. Under Lula, Brazil's deforestation rate fell 68% in April 2023 from the previous year.

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