THINK ON THESE: Halting deforestation

I am not sure if this merits attention from our lawmakers, both local and national. But I think today is the right time now to do something — before it’s too late!

The world is in crisis – in terms of losing the forests. That’s according to a new report, Off Track and Falling Behind: Tracking progress on 2030 forest goals.

“The world’s forests are in crisis. All these promises have been made to halt deforestation, to fund forest protection. But the opportunity to make progress is passing us by year after year,” said Erin Matson, a lead author of the Forest Declaration Assessment and a senior consultant at Climate Focus.

“We saw that in 2021, efforts to end deforestation were already lagging. 2022 was a chance to catch up, but leaders fell short once again. We can’t afford to keep stumbling on the road to no deforestation by 2030. It’s now clear that halting deforestation will require sweeping changes to the economy — and that all of society has a role to play.”

In 2022, global gross deforestation reached 6.6 million hectares worldwide and was 21 percent higher than needed to eliminate deforestation by 2030, the report said.

The loss of primary tropical forests reached 4.1 million hectares and is even further off track – the loss was 33 percent higher than the needed trajectory to halt primary forest loss by the end of the decade. This backslide puts forest goals even farther out of reach after the small but insufficient progress made in 2021.

“Forest regrowth in tropical deforested areas has increased steadily over the past four years, demonstrating the great capability of forests to recover from disturbances,” the report said.

Regrowth is certainly positive, but the ecological conditions characterizing mature forests may take decades to be reestablished. “While there is evidence that restoration is scaling up globally, tracking progress is hindered by the glaring lack of transparency on public and private efforts to restore forests across the world,” the report said.

Among the study’s additional key findings about 2022:

· Gross emissions from deforestation increased. Gross greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation increased by 6% compared to 2021 — totaling 4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2022.

· Biodiversity in forests is under threat. Updated data shows that forest specialists — species dependent on forest habitats for their survival or reproduction — declined drastically. According to between 1970 and 2018.

· But there was some good news — the world made progress in eliminating tree cover loss in areas of high conservation value. In 2022, 1.2 million hectares of forests were lost within forested key biodiversity areas worldwide — this represents a 30% decrease from the baseline period of 2018-2020.

· Progress on forest degradation — the progressive decline in forest’s structure, species composition and ecological functions — was mixed, with data only available through 2021. There was increased degradation in tropical and non-tropical regions of Latin America and Africa; in tropical and non-tropical Asia, Europe, and North America the rate of degradation slowed. However, across all regions, forest integrity continued to worsen.

· While there is evidence that restoration is scaling up globally, tracking progress is hindered by the glaring lack of transparency on public and private efforts to restore forests across the world. It is essential that both public and private sector actors step up to report their restoration data with a focus on quality, validation and transparency.

“The world is failing forests with devastating consequences on a global scale,” said Fran Price, Global Forests Lead of World Wide Fund for Nature. “It is impossible to reverse nature loss, address the climate crisis and develop sustainable economies without forests.

“Since the global pledge to end deforestation by 2030 was made, an area of tropical forest the size of Denmark has been lost. We are at a critical juncture,” he added. “Governments and businesses have a huge responsibility to set us on the right pathway. We do not need new forest goals: we need uncompromising ambition, speed and accountability to fulfil the goals that have already been set. It is time to step up.”

The forest ecosystems support a liveable climate, invaluable biodiversity, thriving economies, and intangible cultural importance. Standing forests are essential for limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

According to the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) of the Department of Science and Technology, one tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide – the primary greenhouse gas – in one year.

“At that rate, they release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings,” FPRDI said.

By the way, how much is a tree worth? According to Indian Professor T.M. Das of the University of Calcutta, a tree living for 50 years will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, control soil erosion and increase soil fertility to the tune of $31,250, recycle $37,500 worth of water and provide a home for animals worth $31,250. This figure does not include the value of fruits, lumber or beauty derived from trees. –

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