During the 2010s governments and companies set unprecedented commitments to curb deforestation, but have fallen short. As the 2020s begin, here's what has changed for forests and what to look for in an uncertain new era.
Sustainable Development Goal 15
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
Forests and terrestrial ecosystems provide vital services for people and the planet, but they are under severe threat. The tropics lost 12 million hectares of forest cover in 2018, including 3.6 million hectares of primary forest, some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich rainforest in the world. Across the world, croplands are expanding, forests and natural grasslands are dwindling, and desertification is increasing.
WRI’s Forests Program helps governments, businesses and civil society join forces to halt deforestation and restore degraded forest landscapes (SDG 15.1, SDG 15.2), helping to protect the earth’s climate and biodiversity and the 1 billion people who rely on forests for their income, food, water and medicine.
Because you can’t stop a problem you can’t see, WRI’s Global Forest Watch initiative applies cutting-edge technology to create radical transparency about the state of the world’s forests and how they are changing (SDG 15.2, SDG 15.5, SDG 15.9). Our satellite-based forest monitoring system empowers people everywhere to respond to forest threats and opportunities in near-real time.
The Global Restoration Initiative works with governments and international partners to inspire, enable and implement restoration of degraded landscapes, recovering economic productivity and ecological values (SDG 15.2, SDG 15.3). WRI serves as the secretariat for Initiative 20X20, a country-led regional partnership in Latin America that aims to bring more than 20 million hectares of land into the process of restoration by 2020, and is a founding partner of AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, which aims to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030.
WRI also leads the Forest Legality Initiative, which works to reduce illegal logging by supporting the supply and procurement of legal and sustainable forest products (SDG 15.7). An international, multi-stakeholder initiative, it is designed improve forest governance and biodiversity conservation by reducing demand for illegally harvested forest products and increasing the capacity of supply chains to deliver legal wood and paper.
We tested 73 wood products from well-known US retailers. More than half the time, the wood wasn't even the species it was labeled to be.
Frances Seymour, a WRI Distinguished Senior Fellow, and Nancy Harris, Research Manager at Global Forest Watch, offer their expert perspective on tropical deforestation in the journal Science as the world's attention is riveted on fires in the Amazon and around the globe.
The thousands of fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon got global attention this week, both in the media and online, where the hashtag #prayforamazonia earned more than 150,000 mentions in one day. But what can satellite data tell us about what is really happening in Brazil’s forests?
Most communities overlook a critical tool in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions: trees. One of the reasons is that they don’t know how to account for forests and trees in their emissions inventories.
Indonesia is one of the only countries actually reducing its deforestation rates. But with the annual fires season beginning and El Niño promising fire-prone conditions, the country’s forest protection policies will be put to the test.
Deforestation rates in the Congo Basin — historically lower than in the Amazon and southeast Asia — are on the rise. It's not just a problem for the 80 million people who rely on the forests for food and livelihoods; research shows the world's second-largest rainforest regulates weather patterns across Africa.
More than 360 companies committed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by 2020. Most are not on track to meet this target, but Global Forest Watch Pro can help.
This Commentary discusses how securing community land across the world will enable countries to accelerate progress on many SDGs as well as their climate targets. Given the looming threat climate change poses to both environmental and development progress, the time to secure these lands is now.
DNA evidence often implicates violent criminals. Now it can do the same for poachers harvesting wood from protected forests.