World Rainforest Day 2022: As forests are depleting, see what governments are doing to protect them
More than 100 world leaders pledged nearly $19.2 billion of public and private funds at the COP26 climate conference in November 2021 to end deforestation and take efforts to revitalise forest cover by 2030.
Brazil, where deforestation rose to a 12-year high in 2020, according to data from the country’s national space research agency Inpe, was also among the signatories to the COP26 deal.
Among other countries that signed the pledge are Russia, China, US, UK, Canada, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The signatory countries cover around 85 percent of the world's forests.
As part of the deal, developing countries will receive funding to restore damaged land, support indigenous communities and tackle wildfires.
Apart from this, 28 countries pledged to remove cutting of trees from the global trade of food and other agricultural products such as cocoa, palm oil and soya as these industries drive forest loss. June 22 is observed as World Rainforest Day all over the world.
Around $1.5 billion will be used to protect and manage the world's second-largest tropical rainforest in the Congo Basin over the next four years, BBC reported.
2014 deal failed
Although, experts welcomed the move, they warned of a similar deal in 2014 which failed to check deforestation.
The New York Declaration on Forests was signed by 40 countries in 2014. The voluntary agreement on deforestation aimed to halve deforestation by 2020 and completely halt it by 2030. Brazil and Russia were not among the signatories. In 2019, a report stated that deforestation continued at an alarming rate despite the pledge.
Why are forests important for climate?
Apart from being home to biodiversity, forests are an enormous carbon store, which regulate the world’s weather and climate. Forests can hold up to 861 gigatons of carbon, which is equal to nearly a century’s annual fossil fuel emissions at the current pace, The Guardian reported. Forests also absorbed twice as much carbon as they emitted in the last 20 years. Hence, forests in the Congo basin rainforest can affect rainfall thousands of miles away near the Nile.
Yet, forests are eroding at a fast pace. Since 2000, around 10 percent of tree cover has been lost, Global Forest Watch revealed.
Countries under scanner
According to the Global Forest Review (GFR) by non-profit organisation World Resources Institute, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bolivia, Indonesia and Peru were the top five countries for tropical primary forest loss in 2021. In total, the tropics lost 11.1 million hectare of tree cover in last year, data from the University of Maryland said. Of this, 3.75 million hectares were lost within tropical primary rainforests, which are areas of critical importance for carbon storage and biodiversity. The loss of tropical primary forest in last year resulted in 2.5 Gt of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent of the annual fossil fuel emissions of India, the Global Forest Review said.
After a marginal decline in the rate of destruction of the forest between 2004 and 2012, Brazil witnessed a 92 percent rise in deforestation since Jair Bolsonaro became the President of Brazil in January 2019, the Time Magazine reported.
Bolsonaro removed key environmental officials and slashed enforcement to allow exploitation of the Amazon rainforest in the country for business.
Countries taking efforts
The only tropical country that has successfully halted and reversed deforestation is Costa Rica. The country’s progress came after the government banned deforestation and introduced the PES scheme, which pays farmers to conserve biodiversity, protect watersheds or mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. As a result of the scheme, Costa Rica has been able to reverse the deforestation it suffered in the 1970s and regrown large areas of forest.
Indonesia experienced the biggest decline in primary tropical forest loss at 31 percent from 3.22 million hectares to 2.24 million hectare between 2014 and 2020, Mongabay reported. During the period, other countries like Argentina (-52 percent or 77,000 ha), Ivory Coast (-30 percent or 37,500 ha), and Vietnam (-15 percent or 36,000 ha) witnessed drop in primary tropical forest loss.
Between 2001 and 2020, India lost 1.93 million hectares of tree cover, data from Global Forest Watch showed.
Yet, India was among the few countries that did not sign the Declaration on Forests and Land Use deal at the COP26 last year because of its concerns over the impact on trade, agriculture sector and role of livestock in the rural economy.
"We did not want any mention of trade because our stand is that any commitment to the environment and climate change should not involve any reference to trade," Reuters quoted an Indian official as saying in 2021.
However, analysts have linked the decision to a proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation Act 1980 that would aid in getting clearances to acquire forest land for new infrastructure projects, Down to Earth reported.