Forests, which make up 31% of the global land area, are among the most important ecosystems globally, where oxygen, the main source of life, is produced. As a source of food and shelter for wildlife and indigenous communities, forests play a vital role in tackling climate change, combating erosion, protecting biodiversity, and increasing water availability. Most of the world’s endangered species live in forests. Moreover, 1.6 billion people get their food, freshwater, clothing, traditional medicine, and shelter from forests.
Deforestation refers to the felling of trees without the aim of replacing or recreating any tree association. Deforestation reduces forest functions such as loss of trees, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity and storage of carbon in the soil. In healthy conditions, forest vegetation contributes to soil health in many ways, such as reducing the detrimental effects of precipitation and wind and providing organic matter that increases the soil’s water storage capacity. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that there is a strong relationship between deforestation and soil erosion. Land use and the presence of soil vegetation are the most critical factors affecting the intensity of surface runoff and erosion.
Artwork by Sarah Nelson
In 2014, the UN made a consensus statement that envisions reducing deforestation by half by 2020 and ending it by 2030. In 2017, the target was set to increase forest lands worldwide by 3 per cent by 2030. But deforestation continued at “alarming levels” with severe consequences for tackling global warming, according to a report conducted in 2019. In the last ten years, it was reported that 4.7 million hectares of forest land had been lost each year. Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia are among the worst-affected countries concerning deforestation.
60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil and plays a vital role in absorbing harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which had declined steadily until 2004, is on the rise again, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). It was underlined that the rate of deforestation is unfortunately at the highest level in the last ten years.
World leaders pledged to end deforestation at the COP26 summit in Glasgow by 2030. It was stated that the member states will ”facilitate trade and development policies, internationally and domestically, that promote sustainable development, and sustainable commodity production and consumption, that work to countries’ mutual benefit, and that do not drive deforestation and land degradation.”
Artwork by June Russet
In November 2021, two weeks after world leaders considered reversing deforestation during COP26, the European Union declared that regulations and legal proposals would be implemented to preserve the forests worldwide. Accordingly, it was stated that beef, palm oil, cocoa, soy, wood, coffee, and other products linked to deforestation would be banned from entering the EU. Unfortunately, there have been last-minute calls from some of the EU member states to delay the EU’s deforestation law recently, including regulations that would propose legal bindings to the companies selling the products mentioned above in the EU.
In this regard, important institutions and organisations must use their initiatives and bring strict regulations in the fight against deforestation around the world. Therefore, actions should be taken immediately, and implementations should be introduced instead of adopting postponement proposals.
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