Inside Climate News, By Georgina Gustin
In the seven years since governments and corporations promised to stop deforestation, the clear cutting of critically important tropical forests has instead increased by more than 50 percent, a new report shows, with commercial agriculture driving most of the increase.
The report, released Tuesday by the conservation group Forest Trends, tracks deforestation, legal and illegal, in 23 countries with large areas of tropical forests, including Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest. The research looks at the period, starting in 2014, when dozens of governments, organizations and companies signed onto the New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary agreement to halve deforestation by 2020 and stop it altogether by 2030.
The researchers found that, since those commitments, an area nearly twice the size of California has been cleared of trees, mostly for commercial agriculture, which is the largest driver of deforestation and the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions from land use.
“The scale of the increase in deforestation is really huge, and given all the commitments, is really disappointing and shocking,” said Cassie Dummett, one of the report’s lead authors. “Every year so much is being cleared, and when it’s for commodities, that means that the world’s consumers and governments are complicit.”
….“Behind a lot of this is land deals, land speculation and land laundering, depending on the country,” Dummett said. “The legal framework is often exploited, where a nexus of political and business elites are using commercial agriculture as a means of claiming ownership, and the land value increases massively when it’s transformed from forest to agricultural land.” Dummett said that Forest Trends will follow up on the report with a set of policy recommendations, but the authors intend it to inform a handful of legislative proposals already in the works.
Lawmakers in the United Kingdom are considering a law that would ban the import of any product linked to illegal deforestation. In the United States, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has said he will introduce legislation that would ban the import of products linked to illegal deforestation, and has called consuming products connected to such destruction of woodlands “immoral.”