American Forests Responds to the Recent UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Report
Much is being said about the UN’s recently released report on climate change and biodiversity. The most comprehensive assessment of its kind, the report claims that one million species are threatened with extinction and that the current global response is insufficient.
It’s an unfortunate but essential call to action to make drastic changes to our lifestyle and economy, steering away from current policies and putting the planet first.
The report includes specifics about forests and forest health, as forests are home to more than 80 percent of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
Key findings related to forests:
Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. Timber, as an industry, has increased 45 percent since 1970, and there are now approximately 13 million forest industry jobs – which contribute to activities far beyond cutting down trees. Other forest industry jobs include conservationists, forest and water managers and fish and game wardens.
Logging isn’t always bad, but managed improperly it can be. The UN report says that 290 million hectares of native forest cover was lost between 1990 and 2015 due to clearing and wood harvesting. What’s more, 10 to 15 percent of global timber supplies are actually attributed to illegal forestry.
Half of the agricultural expansion has occurred at the expense of forests. Roughly 2.6 billion people directly depend on agriculture, and more than a third of the world’s land surface — and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources — are now devoted to crop or livestock production. But the productivity of this land is being degraded, and global crops are at further risk from pollinator loss. Moreover, 100 to 300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
There is only 68 percent global forest area today compared to the estimated pre-industrial level. From 2000 to 2013 alone, there was a seven percent reduction in intact forests in developed and developing countries. And of the over 80,000 tree species, less than one percent have been studied for potential use.
Close to two billion people rely on wood fuel to meet primary energy needs. Wood is considered humankind’s very first source of energy. Today it is still the most important single source of renewable energy, providing about 6 percent of the total global energy supply.
However, one piece of news is actually heartening:
There has been 50 percent decrease in the net rate of forest loss since the 1990s (excluding those managed for timber or agricultural extraction). Through the work of organizations like American Forests, there was a 100 million hectare rise in the area of planted forests from 1990 to 2015. The importance of forests to climate and wildlife cannot be taken for granted. In the end, trees may be the only thing that can save us.
While the UN report provides some sinister statistics on the planet’s health and future prospects, it also presents a range of achievable actions for sustainability. We call on policy experts to create an enabling environment for the most drastic of these transformative actions and to aim for – and reach – new medium- and long-range targets for biodiversity.