According to WRI's ‘Global Forest Watch’,
So, we appear to be losing the battle, if not the war, against tropical deforestation, and missing a key opportunity to tackle climate change (if tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank 3rd in emissions) and reduce poverty. A key question, then, is what can forest sector investors, governments and other actors do differently to reverse these alarming trends?
According to WRI's ‘Global Forest Watch’,
The jeep came to an abrupt halt, a few miles before we reached Lengwe National Park. I saw the Forest Officer jump out and stop a villager on a bicycle that was overloaded with a giant stack of firewood. The villager looked distraught as the Forest Officer confiscated the logs and sent him off with a cautionary warning. With a shrug of resignation, the officer explained that harvesting firewood in forest reserves and national parks was illegal and incidents like the one I had just witnessed were increasing tensions between the community and the Department of Forestry.
Their economic predicament forces them to risk being apprehended but under these circumstances, they take their chances.
The members of the community in the Bulugolla village in Sri Lanka breathed a sigh of relief. It was the month of October and the rice harvest had gone well. The rains had been plentiful and their meddlesome neighbors (seen in picture above) were abiding by their boundaries. This has not always been the case.
As the head of the village explained, “We depend upon a rice harvest to earn our livelihood. While we culturally and traditionally have lived in harmony with elephants, we cannot survive without our paddy farms and so we have to keep the elephants out”.
Human wildlife conflict is currently one of the greatest conservation challenges. As human populations grow, wildlife habitat shrink and humans and wildlife come in contact with each other as they compete for resources. In addition, wildlife such as elephants cannot be limited to the boundaries of protected areas as many protected areas can only support a certain number of elephants. In Sri Lanka, most elephant live outside protected areas amidst paddy fields, community villages, highway railways and other development infrastructure that is intended to support the growing human population. Conflict is inevitable but failure to reduce it will result in extinction of wildlife species.
In Science magazine, earlier this year, researchers revealed that ancient forest peoples of the Amazon helped create much of the imposing forest landscape that the world inherits today.
A growing body of evidence shows that the indigenous peoples and other rural communities who now inhabit these ancestral Amazonian "gardens" continue to be vital to their survival.
Why is ecological restoration so critical to the World Bank’s mission of reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity? Quite simply, because
Some 42 percent of the world’s poorest live on land that is classified as degraded. The situation becomes worse every year, as 24 billion tons of fertile soil are eroded, and drought threatens to turn 12 million hectares of land into desert.
The more we know about our rapidly changing environment, climate, and demographics, the more we learn about how critical forests are for our resilience, overall wellbeing, livelihoods, and economies. Unfortunately, in a world of budgetary constraints and competing interests, governments face increasingly complex decisions when it comes to supporting different sector priorities. The solution is to move away from the traditional approach of sectors operating in isolation or in competition with one another, and more towards an integrated win-win approach. But how?
Last year, over 100 countries included actions related to land-use change and forests in their nationally determined contributions to fight climate change.
At the World Bank, we’re excited to be part of this next phase of forest action. In April 2016, we launched both a Forest Action Plan and Climate Change Action Plan which take a more holistic and ambitious approach to forests. We proposed to focus on investments in sustainable forest management and forest restoration to enhance economic opportunities for people living in and near forests, but also to help countries plan their investments in sectors such as agriculture, energy and transport in a more thoughtful, ‘forest-smart’ manner – to maximize the benefits of their forest assets.
As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.
The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.
My childhood forests are tall, old growth trees clinging to mountainous slopes.
My sister and I would spend the first two weeks of our summer break at camps in the mountains of Albania. Getting a spot at a camp was a coveted ‘luxury’ but my sister and I were lucky -our mother was an official chaperone. She would wake us at 5 am to walk in the forest before everyone else was up. I have to say that as a five year old I didn’t appreciate the scenery. It was too early in the morning and anyway who cared about birds and foxes? (One time though we did see a red squirrel jumping from tree branches and even I had to admit that was awesome.)
It is widely acknowledged that reducing emissions from deforestation could bring about one-third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions we need by 2030 to stay on a 2-degrees trajectory. But protecting and managing forests wisely does not only make sense from a climate perspective. It is also smart for the economy. Forests are key economic resources in tropical countries. Protecting them would increase resilience to climate change, reduce poverty and help preserve invaluable biodiversity.
Here are just a few facts to illustrate why forests are so important. First, forests provide us with ecosystem services like pollination of food crops, water and air filtration, and protection against floods and erosion. Forests are also home for about 1.3 billion people worldwide who depend on forest resources for their livelihood. Locally, forests contribute to the rainfall needed to sustain food production over time. When forests are destroyed, humanity is robbed of these benefits.
The New Climate Economy report shows us that economic growth and cutting carbon emissions can be mutually reinforcing. We need more innovation and we need more investments in a low carbon direction. This requires some fundamental choices of public policy, and the transformation will not be easy. However, it is possible and indeed the only path to sustained growth and development. If land uses are productive and energy systems are efficient, they will both drive strong economic growth and reduce carbon intensity.
Already, the world's large tropical forest countries are taking action.