Deforestation at tipping point warns report

The world’s forests are on the verge of an irreversible decline unless concerned global action is taken a new report released today has warned.

The report from the WWF says as leaders, businesses, and human activity continue to fail the world’s forests on a catastrophic scale, its documents delivers the first ever comprehensive global blueprint on how to bring our forests back to life.

Launching alongside the 2023 Forest Declaration Assessment, WWF’s new Forest Pathways Report comes just two years on from pledges made at COP26 by over 140 countries representing 90% of the world’s forests, to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Yet these new reports show the speed and intensity with which we are still destroying forests around the world and the lack of progress on commitments leaves us clearly in danger of missing vital targets.

The WWF added despite commitments from world leaders at COP26 to support trade policies that do not drive deforestation, new analysis in the report reveals that changing land use and decimating forests to supply the international trade in soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee alone resulted in an estimated 392 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2021.

While COP26 saw pledges to significantly increase global finance for forest conservation and restoration, the report shows that globally governments are now spending at least 100 times more public funding on environmentally harmful subsidies ($378 billion – $1 trillion) than they are on finance for forests ($2.2 billion).

Mary Gagen, author of the Forest Pathways report and chief advisor for forests at WWF, added: “Major tropical forest basins like the Amazon are reaching their tipping point in the face of mounting pressure – a divergence between the voice of international forest commitments and the reality of a global acceleration in forest loss, continuing degradation and a decline in wildlife. But there are pockets of success where countries are tackling deforestation and we know what needs to be done to grow those.

“Missing our forest goals means ever greater risks for our planet, each year we fail, because the targets get harder to meet each year that we fail them. Our findings show the pathways to protected, restored and sustainably managed forests are known – we don’t need new forest targets, we need to implement the ones we have with high ambition and accountability.”

Alongside this analysis, new figures from the Forest Declaration Assessment also published today reveal that in 2022 alone, global forest loss was 6.6 million hectares and tropical forest loss was 4.1 million hectares – an area the size of Denmark. “Yet fewer forests mean a far more unstable world – with much less biodiversity and wildlife, less food and water security, less protection against extreme weather events, and more climate chaos,” It added.

The report continued: “Despite housing 80% of our terrestrial biodiversity,  forests are being increasingly decimated for crops, and unsustainable agriculture is resulting in the declines of species that depend on forests such as gorillas, hornbills, orangutans, and black headed squirrel monkeys. Average populations of monitored forest species have declined by 79% in the last 50 years alone.

The WWF said at a global level we are not delivering on pledges made to save forests and we are not moving fast enough to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.  The Forest Pathways Report’s blueprint calls on global leaders to:

  • End forest-harming investments and subsidies such as agricultural subsidies responsible for the loss of 2.2 million hectares of forest per year.
  • Reform the rules of global trade that harm forests, cutting deforesting commodities out of global supply chains, and removing barriers to forest-friendly goods.
  • Accelerate the recognition of land rights to Indigenous peoples.
  • Make the shift towards nature-based economies.

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF, said: “Every hectare of forest we lose takes us closer to runaway climate change, and despite all the promises our leaders have made to turn this around there’s a huge chasm between where we are and where we should be.

“Even worse, we’re continuing to finance deforestation through the products we buy and the activities governments and businesses support through the subsidies and investments they make. We need accelerated action in the UK and across the world from global leaders and businesses to transform the future for our forests and bring our world back to life.”