Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Mass Deforestation: Report

Failure to act urgently to shift historical patterns of forest destruction could result in the loss of 232 million hectares of forest by 2050, according to WWF and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in their Living Forests report. A growing global population demanding more food, fibre, and fuel coupled with historical patterns in misgoverned forest resources will lead to massive destruction of forests, loss of species and release of carbon emissions unless action is taken immediately, the report predicts.
WWF is calling upon public and private institutions to take on an initiative of Zero Net Deforestation and Forest Degradation (ZNDD) by 2020 as part of the International Year of the Forests (See Bridges Trade BioRes 7 February 2011). The initiative strives for “no net forest loss through deforestation and no net decline in forest quality through degradation.”
Urgency of action
Due to the impacts that forest loss is having on climate change and biodiversity, ZNDD requires immediate and widespread implementation, says WWF.
“If we delay and climate change impacts kick in, forests as a whole will become more like emissions sources rather than sinks,” Rod Taylor, WWF’s director of forests told BioRes. Therefore, Taylor said, ZNDD aims to be a part of achieving global emissions peak by 2020, as well as following the emissions decline.
Furthermore, there is urgency for biodiversity as well. The loss of forest habitats is the leading cause of forest species decline and extinction, according to WWF’s Living Planets Index report.
“The best way to save species is by saving forests,” said Taylor. “Every year we defer, we lose species that can never be replaced.”
The Living Forests report highlights the “high degree of synergy” strategies to curb climate change have with efforts to reduce loss of biodiversity and denotes the necessity to make changes to benefits them both sooner rather than later.
Achieving ZNDD
WWF advocates more efficient land use and a change in consumption habits as key to achieving ZNDD. If no action is taken to improve governance over deforestation by 2030, WWF predicts that some 55 percent of deforestation would be due to failure to optimise land use.
However, the report says, boosting productivity of agricultural land rather than expanding crop cultivation is a major means by which nations – especially developing ones – can maintain their economic growth strategies while avoiding further deforestation.
“A really good example could be palm oil in Indonesia, where government has production growth goals that can be met through efficiency and high productivity rather than expansion into more and more land,” Taylor pointed out.
Good governance is therefore a necessity to ZNDD success, the report acknowledges, because without good governance it is difficult for forests to compete with economic incentives.
To be able to sustain forests, consumption patterns in the developed world need to shrink, the report says. Essentially, the Living Forests report finds that rich countries will need to reduce food waste, meat and dairy intake, energy use, and general over-consumption to allow for secure access to basic materials in the developing world.
Taylor also noted that safeguards on supply chains have the capacity to alter consumption patterns, making them more sustainable.
“By placing safeguards, such as the EC ban on illegal timber, developed nations can make sure they are not outsourcing environmental problems” (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 23 June 2010).
The ZNDD would be a comprehensive measure that would encompass the globe to ensure protection over forests in order to reduce detrimental impacts on climate change, biodiversity, and economic development.
“Doing nothing, delaying or taking half measures, all result in more forest loss and associated GHG emissions, irreversible impacts on biodiversity and declines in ecosystem services,” the report says. The Living Forests report will be in development throughout 2011.
More information
The Living Forests report can be found here.
ICTSD Reporting; “Forests: What future do we want?”, WWF PRESS RELEASE, April 2011; “WWF warns of massive forest loss”, UPI, 27 April 2011.

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