Deforestation refers to the process of clearing or removing forests or woodlands, typically done for more agricultural land, or urban expansion. It involves the permanent destruction of trees and the conversion of forested areas into non-forested land. A key distinction to note is that deforestation occurs when a forested area of land is cleared and the land use changes. The impacts of deforestation are far-reaching.
There are serious environmental repercussions from deforestation. Trees are essential for preserving ecological balance and controlling climatic patterns. They release oxygen, which is necessary for both human and animal life, and absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Permanent forest clearing interrupts this natural process, raising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and decreasing oxygen production.
Here’s how deforestation affects climate change and the role of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in addressing this issue:
Trees and forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing it in their biomass and soil. When forests are cut down or burned, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). This leads to increased concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Greenhouse gas pollution from burning fossil fuels can’t simply be “balanced out” by storing carbon in trees. This is because burning fossil fuels releases a lot more carbon dioxide into the air than trees can take in. At the same time, as climate change gets worse, carbon stores in trees and other natural carbon sinks will become less stable. Because of climate change, droughts, tropical storms, heat waves, and fire weather are becoming more severe and occuring more frequently. Furthering this will lead to more and more tree losses, which will release more and more carbon dioxide into the air.
Deforestation is a key contributor to human-caused climate change. When forests are cleared or burnt, they release the carbon they store. Deforestation disrupts local and regional climate patterns. It can lead to changes in precipitation, temperature, and humidity, affecting weather conditions and potentially leading to more extreme weather events. It also results in habitat loss, endangering countless plant and animal species. The disruption of ecosystems can have cascading effects on the environment and contribute to further climate instability.
As part of the Paris Agreement, countries set up the “REDD+” system to protect forests. ‘REDD’ stands for ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The ‘+’ stands for additional forest-related activities that protect the climate, namely sustainable management of forests and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. Under the framework of these REDD+ activities, developing countries can receive results-based payments for emission reductions when they reduce deforestation.
REDD+ plays a critical role in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.
REDD+ focuses on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by promoting sustainable forest management practices. It provides financial incentives to countries and communities that make efforts to reduce their deforestation rates and conserve forests.
REDD+ not only aims to curb deforestation but also emphasises the importance of sustainable forest management, afforestation (planting new forests), and reforestation (restoring degraded forests). These activities help sequester carbon and enhance forest resilience.
REDD+ projects often include conservation measures to protect biodiversity, recognising the interconnectedness of forests, wildlife, and climate. This helps preserve ecosystems and the services they provide.
REDD+ encourages the involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples in forest conservation efforts. It seeks to ensure that these groups benefit from carbon credits and other incentives while safeguarding their rights and traditional knowledge.
REDD+ contributes to achieving global climate goals, as outlined in international agreements like the Paris Agreement. By reducing emissions from deforestation and promoting sustainable land use, it helps limit global temperature rise.
|Reducing emissions from deforestation
|The process of converting forest land to non-forest land is known as deforestation.
|Reduce the rate of forest loss due to industrial agriculture
|Reducing emissions from forest degradation
|The loss of carbon reserves on forest land that is still forest is known as degradation.
|Reduce the rate and/or severity of fire and/or unsustainable logging-related forest degradation
|Conservation of forest carbon stocks
|Refers to any effort to conserve forests
|Make the protected area network stronger and/or bigger. Signing conditional payment deals with stakeholders is a good way to make long-term promises to protect forests.
|Sustainable management of forests
|Generally, it refers to bringing the rate of extraction in line with the rate of natural growth or increment to ensure near-zero net emissions over time
|Increase area of forest land under sustainable management
|Enhancement of forest carbon stocks
|Refers to (1) non-forest land becoming forest land and (2) the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in forest land remaining forest land (e.g. in the case of recovering degraded forests)
|Increase area under reforestation and aŒorestation Allow degraded forests to regenerate Increase area of degraded forest under enrichment planting
The (PEFC) Programm for the Endorsement of Forest Certification- PEFC FOR-TRADE project has partnered with UN-REDD to support sustainable and legal forest trade in the Lower Mekong Region. The PEFC FOR-TRADE initiative stands for Forestry and Trade for Development in the ASEAN region. It aims to strengthen trade through the institutionalization of forest certification infrastructure, supporting the reduction of trade barriers, promoting sustainable wood trade, improving livelihoods, and contributing to biodiversity protection.
In summary, deforestation significantly contributes to climate change by releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere and disrupting climate patterns. REDD+ plays a crucial role in combating this by incentivising forest conservation, sustainable management, and biodiversity protection, ultimately helping mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development.