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The End of Deforestation


I like Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General.  He doesn’t just talk about doing things; he makes things happen.  I refer specifically to a new collaboration between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  These two organizations intend to restore at least 150 million hectares of forest by 2020 (a hectare is slightly more than 2 acres).  Their joint effort will be announced at the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit on September 23, 2014.

Restoring 150 million hectares of forest, an area about the size of Alaska, would sequester roughly 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide and/or the equivalent thereof every year, reducing the current emissions gap by 11 – 17 percent.  The target date of 2020 is ambitious, but would generate US$85 billion per year in ecosystem services that would benefit the rural poor all 
over the world.

The rate of global deforestation has slowed significantly since the beginning of the 21st century.  However, we still lose 13 million hectares a year (an area the size of Greece).  The willingness of nations rich and poor to sign onto this program is due in large part to the growing realization that forests provide services that could very nearly be termed “priceless.”  Among them are rainfall creation, carbon removal from the atmosphere, storing and purifying water, maintaining soil quality, providing rich habitat, and species maintenance.

Brazil can be cited as an outstanding example of declining deforestation.  It decreased by 70 percent between 2005 and 2013.  This has been due in large part to a moratorium agreed to by the soy and beef industries.  The country has agreed to an 80 percent reduction by 2020.  The Union of Concerned Scientists says that Brazil has “already made a very large contribution to combating climate change – more than that of any other nation on Earth.  For this … Brazil can rightfully be very proud.”  It bears pointing out that, prior to the moratorium, Brazil was the world’s leading contributor to changing climate.

Glenn Hurowitz, of the American consultancy group Climate Advisers and its activist arm, Catapult, is quoted as saying, “ … in some countries we are winning battles against the war on trees … I think it is the beginning of the end.  There are countries where forests are actually regrowing, including Europe, the US, India, China, Vietnam, and even some in Africa.”  Anti-deforestation pledges made by food giants Wilmar, Unilever, and most recently Cargill point to a paradigm shift.

May this be the beginning of a new activism on the part of participant nations and corporations.


With thanks to independent.co.uk and unep.org.

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