Pristine rainforests destruction increased in 2022

According to newly released numbers, in spite of the fact that world leaders have pledged to put an end to the destruction of the world’s most untouched rainforests, an area in 2022 the size of Switzerland was cleared from those rainforests.

Last year, the world’s most carbon-dense and biodiverse ecosystems were cleared for cattle ranching, agriculture, and mining. In some countries, indigenous forest communities were forced off their land by extractive industries, which led to the destruction of the equivalent of 11 football pitches of primary rainforest every minute across the globe. This destruction occurred in countries ranging from Bolivia to Ghana.

According to estimates gathered by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the University of Maryland, the tropical regions experienced a loss of 4.1 million hectares of primary rainforest in 2022. This represents an increase of around 10% from 2021. The authors of the paper warn that humans are destroying one of the most effective weapons for preventing the loss of biodiversity and limiting the rise in global temperature.

Alterations in land use are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, behind only the combustion of fossil fuels, and are one of the major factors contributing to decline of biodiversity. According to the findings of scientists, it is highly doubtful that global warming can be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels if deforestation continues unchecked.

At the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in 2021, more than one hundred world leaders, including Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, and Jair Bolsonaro, signed an agreement to halt as well as reverse deforestation by the year 2030. This agreement included more than ninety per cent of the world’s forests. According to the most recent data, it appears that leaders are not living up to their promises.

When it came to the destruction of tropical primary forests in 2022, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Bolivia were at the top of the list. Following major actions taken by both corporations and governments in recent years, Indonesia and Malaysia have maintained loss rates that are extremely close to record lows. Bolivia was one of the few large wooded countries that did not sign the pledge to limit the loss of forest that was made at the Cop26 conference.

In recent years, Ghana has had the greatest proportional growth in forest loss of any country, despite the fact that the absolute numbers are low. Ghana is a major producer of cocoa, which is used in the production of chocolate.

After a record year for destruction in 2021, the rate of deforestation in Russia’s boreal forests reduced in the following year, but analysts warned this did not indicate a favourable trend for the future of the country’s forests.

In response to the newly released data, Inger Andersen, the head of the Environment Department at the United Nations, has advocated for a higher price for forest carbon in order to remove the immediate financial incentive to cut down rainforests. Countries like Gabon, Brazil, and Peru, which have forests that are essential to the climate, could receive subsidies to keep them standing if they participated in carbon markets. However, there are questions over the efficacy of carbon markets in terms of conservation and their capacity to grow to the magnitude that is required. A report that was released in April estimated that the cost of protecting the most vulnerable locations would require at least $130 billion per year (or £100 billion).

“The health of both humans and the earth as a whole depends on the condition of our forest ecosystems. Stopping deforestation and reversing the loss of forest cover are critical steps toward accelerating climate change mitigation efforts, enhancing resiliency, and lessening the extent of loss and damage. “We need to put a higher price on forest carbon, one that reflects the true value of forests, that reflects the actual cost of emissions, and that is sufficient to incentivize the sellers to protect standing forests,” Andersen said. “We need to put a price on forest carbon that reflects the true value of forests, that reflects the actual cost of emissions, and that reflects the actual cost of emissions.”

A carbon price is only one of several factors that should be considered while protecting and restoring forests. It is about safeguarding biodiversity; protecting the livelihoods of Indigenous people and local communities; and maintaining the hydrological cycle so that we can stabilize weather patterns and protect ourselves from landslides, soil erosion, and flooding. All of these things are interconnected. She went on to say that “we simply cannot afford to lose more forest cover.”

The statistics for 2022 encompass the final year of Jair Bolsonaro’s administration in Brazil, which was the time when vast swaths of the Amazon were deforested and destroyed. His successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has made a commitment to put an end to deforestation and will organize a summit for all of the Amazon basin later this year at which the topic will be discussed.

The countries of Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are home to approximately half of the world’s surviving rainforests, are increasingly working together in a coalition that is being referred to as the “Opec of rainforests” to seek money for the protection of forests at UN environmental talks.

The numbers represent a decline in tree cover, which does not always equate to deforestation. The loss of tree cover can occur as a result of wildfires and other natural occurrences, but deforestation is always caused by humans. The regrowth and regeneration of a forest are not accounted for in these calculations.

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