For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Global Forest Watch project page.
Since the very first Earth Day more than four decades ago, the environmental movement has tackled a wide range of problems, including air pollution, contaminated water, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and more. But this Earth Day, I propose that there are two fundamental issues the movement must address over the coming decade if it is ever to defuse the tension between development and the environment. In fact, these two issues underlie many, if not most, of the world’s environmental challenges.
I’m referring here to the human quest for food and the human quest for fuel.
Unsustainable Food Production
Food production has significant―but often underestimated―impacts on the environment. Take climate, for instance: About one-quarter of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions are agriculture-related. In particular, nearly 13 percent of global emissions comes from livestock, fertilizer use, and farm-related energy consumption, while another 11 percent results from the clearing of forests and other ecosystems, primarily for agriculture.
This piece was co-authored with Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
This piece explores how advances in technology can curb illegal logging, written in honor of the first International Day of Forests. It originally appeared on The Guardian's Sustainable Business Blog.
Our future is inextricably linked to forests. The social and economic benefits they provide are essential to realizing a sustainable century. A key litmus test of our commitment to this future is our response to a growing, global threat: illegal logging and the criminal timber trade.
Forests are a vital source of biodiversity and livelihoods. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who are wholly dependent on forests. They are also natural carbon storage systems and key allies in combating climate change. They are vast, nature-based water utilities assisting in the storage and release of freshwater to lakes and river networks.
While deforestation is slowing in some places – most notably Brazil – it still remains far too high. The loss of forests is responsible for up to 17 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, 50 percent more than that from ships, aviation and land transport combined.
As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for more than just the trees. While an estimated 500 million people depend directly on forests for their livelihoods, the entire world depends on them for food, water, clean air, and vital medicines. Forests also absorb carbon dioxide, making them critical to curbing climate change.
Despite some encouraging anti-deforestation efforts in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa, globally, forests are under threat, particularly in the tropics. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13 million hectares of forests were lost every year. About 30 percent of the global forest cover has been completely cleared, and 20 percent has been degraded.
This dilemma begs the question: What is the outlook for forests in 2030? Are we missing the opportunity to preserve forests and ensure they continue to deliver the goods and services we need for a growing global population? How can we use forests to build a thriving global green economy?
Asking these questions is important. Finding answers to the challenges they raise is imperative.
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies, announced earlier this month that it will no longer cut down natural forests in Indonesia and will demand similar commitments from its suppliers. The announcement was received with guarded optimism by Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs who have waged a persistent campaign to change APP’s forest policies.
Indeed, APP’s new policy—which includes sourcing all material from plantation-grown trees, ceasing clearing of carbon-rich peatland, and engaging more with local communities—is significant, both for the business world and forest conservation. APP and its suppliers manage more than 2.5 million hectares of land in Indonesia and produce more than 15 million tons of pulp, paper, and packaging globally every year. Strong action by APP could indicate that the industry is heading for a more sustainable future.
But APP has something else going for it this time around. A rapidly evolving world of improving corporate practices and powerful technology could provide the right enabling environment for APP’s commitment—and others like it—to succeed.
A joint collaboration between WRI and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
This WRI/WBCSD guide provides simple, clear information about the 10 key issues related to sustainable procurement of wood and paper-based products. The guide is designed as an...
Please see our Congo Basin Forest Atlases page for the latest versions of our Congo Basin Atlases, along with links to online interactive maps, desktop mapping applications, GIS data,...
The third annual GFI Partner Meeting was held in Washington, DC from 29 – 31 May. Participants included representatives from GFI partner organizations in Brazil, Indonesia and Cameroon.
A Review of the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility Readiness Preparation Proposals
This working paper provides regular updates of the Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PPs) and National Programme Documents (NPDs) submitted by REDD+ Country Participants to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and to the United Nations’ Collaborative Programme on Reducing...
This issue brief describes analyses by the World Resources
Institute (WRI) in support of emerging payments for watershed
services (PWS) programs in two major watersheds in Maine and
North Carolina and insights gleaned from work in progress. The
three pilot initiatives...