Forests fundamental to effective climate deal

Posted on 25 October 2009
The need for firewood is a major cause for deforestation in Nepal. Finding firewood is an ever more strenuous task, usually carried out by women.
© Simon de Trey White / WWF-UK
Buenos Aires, Argentina – The world’s ability to control climate change could be crippled if global leaders do not support clear and effective targets to arrest deforestation at climate talks in Copenhagen in December, WWF said at the conclusion of a key global foresty summit.

As the XIIIth World Forestry Congress finished Friday, WWF called for an ambitious and bold climate deal at Copenhagen to give clear guidance and incentives for the forestry sector to do its part in stopping catastrophic climate change and adapt to predicted changes.

“Setting immediate deforestation targets is a key component of any climate change agreement,” said Rodney Taylor, Director of WWF International’s Forest program.

“If the global deal on climate change ignores the dangers of unchecked deforestation, it will set the world on an accelerated path to savage climate change.”

Despite conservation efforts, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares per year, or 36 football fields a minute. It generates almost 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and halting forest loss has been identified as one of the most cost-effective ways to keep the world out of the danger zone of runaway climate change.

To this end, WWF during the Congress proposed a global target of zero net deforestation by 2020 to avoid runaway climate change and stop the current catastrophic trend of species loss.

“A zero net deforestation by 2020 target will set the scale and urgency needed to gather the political will to stop forest loss,” Taylor said.

WWF will continue to advocate for a strong deforestation target to be included in all other relevant international treaties and agreements, including in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In Copenhagen, negotiators need to agree to strong financial and emissions reduction commitments to craft a climate deal that enables developing countries to halt forest loss.

“WWF received strong feedback at the Congress from various sectors, including governments, other NGOs, and the private sector to support our target on deforestation,” said Gerald Steindlegger, WWF International’s Forest Manager on Global Policy.

Many developing countries already are adopting major deforestation policies that mirror WWF’s call for zero net deforestation by 2020.

On Wednesday, government representatives from Argentina and Paraguay pledged during a special ceremony co-hosted by WWF and its partner organization Fundacion Vida Silvestre at the Congress to work towards zero net deforestation in the Atlantic Forest, and to implement a package of measures that include national legislation to enforce those commitments.

The Atlantic Forest initially spanned 500,000 square kms, shared between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. However, only 7.4 percent of the forest is left today – or about 35,000 square kilometers, making it one of the most threatened and fragmented subtropical forests in the world.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government already has established a zero deforestation target by 2010 for the Atlantic Forest. Brazil also has pledged to establish protected areas covering at least 10 percent of the forest.

This year, the World Forestry Congress brought together more than 4,000 participants in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The need for firewood is a major cause for deforestation in Nepal. Finding firewood is an ever more strenuous task, usually carried out by women.
© Simon de Trey White / WWF-UK Enlarge
WWF International Forests Manager Gerald Steindlegger.
© Marcelo Tucuna Enlarge