Across the world the equivalent of 11 football pitches of pristine rainforest were destroyed every minute last year as biodiverse ecosystems and carbon catching foliage were cleared for cattle ranching, agriculture and mining.
The tropics lost 4.1million hectares of primary rainforest in 2022, an increase of around 10 per cent from 2021, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI) and University of Maryland.
The report’s authors warn that humans are destroying one of the most effective tools for mitigating the effects of global warming.
Land use change is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions behind the burning of fossil fuels and is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Limiting global heating to 1.5C above preindustrial levels is unlikely without stopping the destruction of rainforests, according to scientists.
At Cop26 in 2021, more than 100 world leaders, including the US President Joe Biden, China’s Xi Jinping and Jair Bolsonaro, then President of Brazil signed up to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 in a commitment that covered more than 90 per cent of the world’s forests.
Rainforest Wins and Losses
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Bolivia headed the table for tropical primary forest loss in 2022.
However, Indonesia and Malaysia managed to keep rates of loss near record low levels after significant corporate and government action in recent years.
Ghana, a major producer of cacao for chocolate, has suffered the biggest relative increase in forest loss of any country in recent years.
Inger Andersen, the UN’s environment chief, has called for a higher price for forest carbon to eliminate the short-term economic incentive to clear rainforests.
Through carbon markets, countries with forests that are critical to the climate – such as Gabon, Brazil and Peru – could receive payments to keep them standing. In April, a report calculated that at least $130bn a year was needed to protect the most at-risk areas.
Andersen said: ‘Forests are critical for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of planet earth. Ending deforestation and halting forest cover loss are essential ingredients to fast-tracking climate action, to building resilience and to reducing 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 incentivise the sellers to protect standing forests.
‘Forest protection and forest restoration is about so much more than a carbon price. It is about protecting biodiversity; protecting the livelihoods of Indigenous people and local communities, and sustaining the hydrological cycle to stabilise weather patterns and protect ourselves against landslides, soil erosion and flooding. We simply cannot afford to lose more forest cover.’