The Issue

Photo: Rachel Kramer/NWF

Accounting for around 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions, tropical deforestation is a major driver of global warming, when the carbon stored in our planet’s forests is converted through changes in land use to carbon dioxide–a powerful greenhouse gas.   In fact, the loss of forests and peat lands around the world produces nearly as many emissions as  the entire global transportation sector.   

Deforestation also threatens the local biodiversity of a region, reduces and degrades water supply and soil quality and has devastating impacts on local communities – all key factors that perpetuate global poverty.  When people think of the causes of deforestation, logging for timber usually comes to mind. In fact, the largest driver of deforestation today is commercial agriculture driven by public demand for two key commoditiespalm from Indonesia and cattle from Brazil.  

Tackling global warming is a daunting challenge that will require multi-sector international cooperation.  While shifting to renewable energy and aggressively pursuing low-carbon fuels are essential means of reducing global energy-sector emissions, according to the 2006 UK Stern Review protecting tropical forests is “the single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reduction in carbon emissions”.    

An international climate agreement that proposes a unified and transparent system for Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) has the potential to both protect forests, and preserve the culture and traditions of indigenous groups and forest peoples whose livelihoods depend on them.  

Forest Issues