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STATEMENT: New York Declaration of Forests assessment shows we’re losing the battle, but we can still beat deforestation

WASHINGTON, D.C. September 12, 2019 — A new report to assess progress on the New York Declaration of Forests (NYDF) —signed on September of 2014— was released today in the lead-up to the 2019 United Nations Climate Summit. Five years after a landmark pledge to cut the rate of natural forest loss by half and restore 150 million hectares of land by 2020, the global state of forests has dramatically worsened. Despite the pledges by hundreds of government and companies, the annual rate of tree cover loss has increased 43%, reaching over 26 million hectares per year. (See full progress assessment).

Following is a statement from Craig Hanson, Vice President for Food, Forest, Water & The Ocean, WRI:

“The New York Declaration of Forests was a historic acknowledgement that forests are critical to tackle climate change, and therefore secure unique biodiversity and livelihoods for billions of people around the planet. Five years ago, governments, multinational companies, indigenous communities and non-governmental organizations made a remarkable commitment to save forests from destruction.

“Five years on, this Progress Assessment gives a mixed report card. In some places the world is suffering dramatic loss of primary forests. But we also find areas where new trees are enriching rural landscapes, such as Indonesia, Thailand and El Salvador. In some places we are seeing some restoration helping trees come back. Overall, though, we are still seeing a net reduction in the amount of forests across the planet. On average, an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018.

“We’re losing the battle, but we can still turn this around. This report gives us a clarion call that we need to re-energize commitment, action and financing towards the NYDF. Achieving it is fundamental and critical to beat climate change.

“There are three steps we need to follow this next decade to reach the NYDF goals. First, we must boost yields on land that has already been converted into cropland and pastureland in order to meet the demand for food of a growing planet. Second, we need to significantly improve governance to keep the forests that are currently standing. If we are successful at these first steps, we will be able to achieve the third, which is liberating low-yielding lands, allowing forests to regrow.

“We are not facing a lost cause. We are much further than where we were ten years ago. We have access to better technology and satellite data — platforms like Global Forest Watch — that offer powerful insights on the complex loss and gain dynamics in the world’s forests.

“Our challenge is to accelerate the scale and increment the speed of action to protect and restore forests, as the report states. Governments and the private sector will need to dramatically escalate funding and action to achieve the 2030 targets. Thankfully society cares, companies are engaged, and countries have access to tools and technology to make better choices. Decision makers in all sectors should keep this in mind as they read and utilize this report.”

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