Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
Nii Kaniti Forest Management in Peru (image courtesy of ecosphere+)
Deforestation remains a massive obstacle in tackling climate change, accounting for about 10% of global emissions annually. When trees are cut down and burned, their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. If we left those trees alone, they would remain a ‘carbon sink’ for as long as they live. Deforestation statistics, however, make for grim reading. Here is just a selection:
· Every second one hectare of tropical forests is destroyed. Over the course of a year this area is about the size of Denmark.
· If tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third in carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, surpassed only by China and USA.
· Over the next 15 years, we could lose forest areas twice the size of the state of Texas to deforestation according to a WWF report.
· 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in the last 50 years.
· Deforestation has led to 14% of total global carbon emissions.
We have to slow and then reverse this trend, so that each year more forests are regenerating than being cut down. Once destroyed, forest ecosystems can take over 100 years to recover. While tree planting is important, the carbon benefits of putting a sapling in the ground won’t be felt until it reaches maturity. Not only that, but we can’t keep up with the rate at which trees are being cut down. 15 billion are cut down each year, and only 5 billion planted.
Planting some of the five billion trees planted each year (image courtesy of Eden Reforestation Projects)
This is why REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) projects are so important to us. It is essential that we protect as much forest as possible. If we all stopped exploiting them, our forests would be able to regenerate naturally and suck in more carbon dioxide as they grow back. In addition, natural regeneration is the best way to go when possible. New research by scientists at Kew estimates that natural regeneration can capture 40 times more carbon than tree plantations.
The carbon benefits of REDD projects are obvious, but we select our REDD projects to go beyond carbon. We want communities to be at the centre of our REDD projects, which can offer them a way to improve their livelihoods through initiatives such as adopting agroforestry practices. Having local communities at the centre of REDD projects is best for preserving forests too. Deforestation in community-managed forests can be 11 times lower than outside their borders. This provides reason to hope. If forests are in the right hands, we can still preserve their biodiversity.
The forest in the hands of the local community