The rates of tropical forest deforestation are pushing 2030 climate targets out of reach, despite major progress in Brazil and Colombia.

According to research from the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with the University of Maryland, an area of land nearly the size of Switzerland (3.7 million hectares) is cleared from rainforests each year, equivalent to a rate of 10 football pitches every minute.

While Colombia and Brazil are advancing effective reforestation policies, such as  Brazil's significant progress in its commitment to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon, other countries including Bolivia, Laos and Nicaragua experienced deforestation increases in 2023.

Why is deforestation occurring?

A significant portion of tropical forest destruction is attributed to land being cleared for agricultural practices, particularly for palm oil and soya. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has stated that almost 80 per cent of the world’s soybean production is used to feed livestock, particularly for beef, chicken, egg and dairy production, but global population rises are placing increasing pressure on agricultural demand, driving deforestation further.  

Deforestation is also driven by territory needed to produce goods and services. The Forest Transition Theory highlights that deforestation rates increase most notably when a developing country is experiencing economic growth.

Is there hope for our forests?

The current target is for net-zero deforestation globally by 2030, but we are far off track. While global deforestation rates decreased by 9 per cent from 2022 – 2023, the world has maintained an average of between 3 million and 4 million hectares of tropical forests lost each year, meaning we aren’t seeing a consistent and potentially long-term decline in deforestation.

Stronger policy surrounding imports from areas experiencing high deforestation could help slow the process, but the EU has recently delayed plans for stricter policing of these imports. The main targets of this policy were European imports of coffee, palm oil, cocao and rubber, but the proposed regulation triggered anger from developing nations who rely on these imports, accusing the EU of forcing green standards onto others who are less economically advanced.

The trade-off that will be a central focus of global deforestation policy is the balance between developing nations reliant on land to export their goods, and developed nations who want to enforce stricter policy that limits deforestation.  


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