In the next 15 years, Brazil aims to eliminate illegal deforestation, restore and reforest 12 million hectares, recover 15 million hectares of degraded pastures, and establish 5 million hectares of land on which crops, livestock and forests co-exist, said president Dilma Rousseff. She announced Brazil’s contribution to an anticipated new global deal to curb climate change. Brazil is often lauded internationally as an example of how political will, legislation and the right incentives combined can stop forests being cut down. But even there, the battle is not won, as deforestation spiked in 2013, mainly in areas where agricultural expansion is happening.
“We’ve been deforesting our planet for the last 40 years – don’t expect it to change overnight,” said Andrew Mitchell, founder and executive director of the Global Canopy Programme (GCP), a tropical forest think tank. According to a new GCP report, more than 50 percent of the world’s tropical forests have been lost over the last half-century, with Indonesia having replaced Brazil as the country with the highest rates of deforestation.
In the last decade, around two thirds of global deforestation has been driven by the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, timber and paper products, soya, beef and leather, and to a lesser extent biofuels, the report said. But more recently some of the world’s biggest companies that produce and trade those commodities have “got it”, realizing that destroying rainforests doesn’t make sense for their business in the long term, Mitchell said. That recognition has given rise to a raft of promises by corporations to stop their operations causing forest loss, in many cases by 2020 or earlier.
Some are joint efforts. The 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, signed by businesses, governments and indigenous peoples, aims to cut natural tropical forest loss in half by 2020 and end it by 2030. While the deforestation target has not received much attention, it is one of the few the world is on track to achieve with an extra push to cover the last mile, according to research from the London-based Overseas Development Institute. While deforestation is expected to continue in the short term, by 2020 the share of the world’s land that is forest is set to start increasing, so that by 2030 there will be almost as much forest as there is today, it said.
*Source: Reuters / By Megan Rowling and Laurie Goering
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