The world lost nearly 13 million hectares of forest – an area roughly the size of England – every year between 2000 and 2010. Agriculture and logging were responsible for most of that loss and degradation, which in turn led to higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, regional haze, water pollution and a decline in biodiversity. The lack of timely, reliable, decision-ready data on what is happening in forests, and where, and who was doing it, makes it difficult to prevent further widespread deforestation.
In 2011, WRI began building a network that has grown to 50 organizations to create a publicly accessible, user-friendly online tool to provide accurate, up-to-date data on the status of the world’s forests.
GFW’s launch event in February 2014 offered a window on tree cover loss and gain, and provided national statistics, tree cover loss alerts and vast amounts of other information. By July, two new applications were also available: GFW Commodities, which showed the impact of suppliers of palm oil and other commodities on forests, and GFW Fires, which monitors and analyzes fires across Southeast Asia.
While WRI led this work, the mobilization of a path-breaking partnership was central to its success. Partners include the University of Maryland, Google, Esri, the Center for Global Development, Imazon, GFW Canada, ScanEx, Transparent World, the Jane Goodall Institute, CartoDB, Vizzuality, and Blueraster, with major funding from Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, USAID, the GEF, DFID, the Tilia Fund, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Sida, the Bobolink Foundation, and Danida.
GFW has catalyzed a dramatic increase in action against unsustainable and illegal forest practices. Governments and businesses are using GFW to improve forest management transparency and accountability. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil has used GFW to help members disclose where palm oil companies operate. Indonesia, a core partner, uses GFW Fire’s ultra-high resolution images to crack down on illegal burning. GFW has received worldwide attention, with more than 450,000 unique visitors, more than 1,200 media stories, and countless interactions via social media.
The New York Declaration on Forests issued at the UN Climate Summit last month includes a global pledge to restore 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes by 2030.
Several countries confirmed their commitment to restore millions of hectares of degraded land, with Ethiopia making one of the most significant pledges—setting a target to restore 15 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into productivity by 2025.
Local communities are key to protecting the world’s last remaining forests. Indigenous peoples hold legal or official rights to one-eighth of the world’s forests, about 513 million hectares (1.3 billion acres).
Read more about how researchers used Global Forest Watch maps to identify lower rates of deforestation where governments protect communities’ rights.
Leaders at this week's UN Climate Summit unveiled “The New York Declaration” on forests, which many hope will inject life into efforts to reverse forest loss.
While the Declaration is not an “official” UN agreement—and has been carefully worded to avoid the appearance of commitments being binding—it is a positive development. If governments and business take it seriously going forward—and civil society watchdogs hound them sufficiently to do so—it would yield significant impacts.
This fact sheet highlights the regional trends, impacts, and vulnerabilities associated with wildfires in the Western United States, explains how climate change is amplifying these wildfires, and summarizes the leadership and initiatives taking place to help address the issue.