Deforestation in the Amazon is accelerating the point of no return, warns WWF

Posted on 15 November 2022
Aerial view of deforestation and fire in the Amazon Rainforest surrounding the Uru-euwau- wau Indigenous Land, on september 2020, in Governador Jorge Teixeira, Rondonia state.
© © Andre Dib / WWF-Brazil
WWF’s Living Amazon Report, published last week, argues that threats to the integrity of the Amazon must be stopped through urgent measures to protect 80% of the rainforest by 2025 (80x25). Drawing on the latest available research, the report shows that without urgent action, the rainforest could reach a point of no return, directly affecting the livelihoods of the 47 million people living in the Amazon, 511 indigenous peoples groups, 10% of the planet's biodiversity, and aggravating the global climate and biodiversity crises.
Despite the stark warnings that the Amazon faced this point of no return from the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) at COP 26, a year on, deforestation is accelerating rather than decreasing. The Panel’s data shows that 18% of Amazon forests have been converted to other uses and an additional 17% are highly degraded. David Singh, director of WWF-Guianas stated that “As part of the Amazon Biome, the Guianas can present a hopeful future, but this depends a great deal on the decisions we make as a People over the next few years. All around the region is under threat from all sorts of human activity, legal and illegal, planned and unplanned. These are all contributing to rapid loss in biodiversity and ecosystems, and could irreparably alter the world’s climate. The question is what future will we embrace even as we obtain massive flows of cash from oil and gas and other extractives. We must learn from the rest of Amazonian countries and make sure that we choose wisely for our children.”
The report also warns that the vital goal of keeping global warming to 1.5°C cannot be met if the Amazon Rainforest is lost, as it stores between 367 - 733 Gt of CO2 in its vegetation and soils. At the same time, the carbon stored for centuries in the Amazon is also being released at an accelerated rate due to deforestation, fires, and unsustainable production activities.
Reversing this trend, and protecting 80% of the rainforest, will require securing and extending a mosaic of protected areas and protected indigenous territories - currently half of the forest - which must be equitably governed and managed, along with integrated landscape management approaches for conservation and sustainable development, according to WWF. The report argues that saving the Amazon will also require a high-level political commitment that directly addresses the main drivers of Amazon loss such as deforestation, illegal mining, corruption, indiscriminate use of fauna and other natural resources, and infrastructure planned without ecosystem considerations. 
"Meeting the 80x25 goal is part of a global effort to transition to an ecologically healthy Amazon. This requires a shift towards social equity, inclusive economic development, and global responsibility” remarked Kurt Holle, WWF’s Amazon Coordination Unit/ Peru Director. In the  context of global environmental change, “the Amazon is caught in the intersection between the climate and biodiversity crises, with the destruction of its ecosystems diminishing the possibility of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C” said Roberto Troya, Regional Director for WWF Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that “urgent action is needed to avoid global repercussions and to ensure that this region can continue to regulate the planet’s climate and to provide environmental and cultural benefits to the world”.
During an event at COP27 launching the report, a global call for key stakeholders from diverse sectors to join the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA)’s 80x25 initiative to protect at least 80% of the Amazon was issued.
According to the group, accomplishing this goal will require: a regional Pan-Amazonian vision with strengthened policies and institutions to implement it; 100% legal recognition, demarcation, and financing of indigenous peoples' territories; moratoria or other policies for halting deforestation, in particular, that which is carried out illegally and at a commercial scale, in primary forests, areas of high biological value, or areas that are already reaching local tipping points; foster a development model that stops the drivers of deforestation and degradation, and promotes deforestation-free supply chains; finance a large-scale ecological restoration program; protect biodiversity and threatened species, among other strategies.
Aerial view of deforestation and fire in the Amazon Rainforest surrounding the Uru-euwau- wau Indigenous Land, on september 2020, in Governador Jorge Teixeira, Rondonia state.
© © Andre Dib / WWF-Brazil Enlarge