Youth Perspectives

How deforestation cuts into climate goals

Chris Arsenault
Writer, The Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Mines, palm oil plantations, large farms and mining projects are contributing to an alarming pace of forest destruction, a new report has found, hampering efforts to curb global warming.

Satellite imagery indicates that more than 30,000 hectares of forest are lost daily, said the report “Securing Forests, Securing Rights”, launched in Peru on Monday by a coalition of rights groups during international climate change talks.

Forests play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; chopping them down worsens global warming.

Over the last decade an average total of 13 million hectares of forest have been cleared annually, with tropical forests particularly affected.

“The expansion of industries like mining, palm oil and agribusiness are the hidden drivers of deforestation,” Helen Tugendhat, a coordinator with the Forest Peoples Programme, one of the groups who researched the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The report aims to show that indigenous communities who live in the world’s forests are often the best custodians of the land for maintaining trees and slowing climate change.

But governments looking to spur economic growth are keen to exploit resources from forested areas, Tugendhat said, often triggering the displacement of indigenous communities.

To allow major projects to proceed, these same states often blame local communities for poorly managing forests in order to access the land and the riches beneath it, she said.

Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s surface and are home to an estimated 350 million indigenous people whose cultures and livelihoods depend upon them.

The report urged companies, governments and consumers to halt the production and trade of commodities derived from deforestation and included case studies from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 10 percent of Malaysia’s forests were lost from 2000 to 2012, the world’s highest national rate, the report said. The figure is three times higher than that the Malaysian government reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, according to the report.

The European Union and China are the main importers of timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo, even though much of this wood is obtained illegally.

“Commercial operations on (DRC) forest lands involve land grabbing and the eviction, forced labour, arbitrary arrest, rape, torture and murder of community members,” the report said.

Some countries, however, including Brazil, have achieved notable reductions in rates of deforestation.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Ros Russell)

This article is published in collaboration with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Chris Arsenault covers global food security and agricultural politics for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Rome.

Image: A pile of firewood is seen at a firewood merchant in the Varkiza suburb, south of Athens January 22, 2013. REUTERS.

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Related topics:
Youth PerspectivesNature and BiodiversityClimate Action
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