Despite Global Pledges, Tree Loss Is Up Sharply in Tropical Forests
More than a year after countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030, the world is continuing to lose its tropical forests at a fast pace, according to a report issued on Tuesday. The annual , a research organization, found that the world lost 10.2 million acres of primary rainforest in 2022, a . It is the first assessment to cover a full year since November 2021, when 145 countries to halt forest loss by the end of this decade. We had hoped by now to see a signal in the data that we were turning the corner on forest loss, Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the institutes forest program, said. We dont see that signal yet, and in fact were headed in the wrong direction. The report, done in collaboration with the University of Maryland, documented tree loss in the tropics from deforestation, fires and other causes. Last years destruction resulted in 2.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions, a significant amount that is roughly equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of India, a country of 1.4 billion. Tropical deforestation also degrades some of the planets richest ecosystems, the habitats for plants and animals and the regulators of rain patterns for several countries. The Amazon rainforest, the largest in the world, hasnt faced such enormous destruction in almost two decades, according to by Amazon Conservation, a research organization. Brazil, the country with the largest portion of tropical rainforest, had the highest rates of deforestation globally. It accounted for more than 40 percent of tree loss globally, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bolivia. Bolivia delivered some of the reports most striking numbers. Forest loss there went up 32 percent last year, the highest rate on record for that country. It was one of the few tropical forest countries that did not sign the Glasgow commitment on deforestation. Marlene Quintanilla, a research director at the Fundacion Amigos de la Naturaleza, a nonprofit group in Bolivia, said a powerful driver of destruction in that country has been a government policy that encourages farmers to clear vast tracts to secure land titles. The standing forest isnt seen as fulfilling any social or economic function, she said. The expansion of agriculture appeared to be hurting forests in Africa. In Ghana, the country that lost the biggest proportion of its primary forest last year, small-scale clearing for cocoa production was a major source of deforestation. Forest clearing is strongly linked to a lack of economic opportunities and basic infrastructure in the Congo River Basin region. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, most people dont have access to electricity, so the forest is . Teodyl Nkuintchua, who works on strategy and outreach for the World Resources Institute in the Congo Basin area, said policies to curb environmental harm would not work by themselves. Unless we integrate development priorities in those actions in those countries, we will not be able to address deforestation, he said. One of the few bright spots in the report came from Southeast Asia, where efforts to curb deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia continued to yield results. A logging moratorium, efforts to restore peatlands, and corporate commitments to exclude palm oil suppliers linked to deforestation appear to be effective. And there are signs the trajectory of global deforestation may change for the better in the near future. The European Union this year delivered a push in that direction, adopting a law that in tropical countries. China, the worlds largest importer of many agricultural commodities, has recently committed to linked to its trade with Brazil. Brazil also seems to be changing course. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office in January vowing to protect the Amazon rainforest, and preliminary numbers for the first five months of the year suggest . Deforestation and environmental crime had Jair Bolsonaro. The reports analysis focuses on the tropics because forest loss there is usually more permanent and tends to be caused by human activity. Tropical forests also have a greater role in storing carbon and supporting biodiversity. But global tree cover loss beyond the tropics was down 10 percent last year. According to the report, the decline was a direct result of fewer wildfires in the boreal forests of Russia. But this could change. Canada is on record. El Nino, a that is , has also just arrived. There is concern that, even if countries are able to curb deforestation during this period, wildfires could erase some of their efforts. An El Nino year will be a test, Rod Taylor, the global director for forests at the World Resources Institute, said, adding that he hoped fires would not wreak havoc. But well have to see. An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of a senior fellow at the World Resources Institutes forest program. She is Frances Seymour, not Francis. How we handle corrections is a writer for the Climate Forward newsletter, currently based in Brazil. She was previously a fellow at the Rainforest Investigations Network, where she examined the forces that drive deforestation in the Amazon.