Rainforests vital role in fighting climate change

The recently published research by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows in an assessment of the amounts of greenhouse gases emitted from and absorbed by World Heritage Listed forest sites, has found that at least 10 key sites have been net carbon sources over the past 20 years, meaning that they have given off more carbon than they sequestered, due to pressure from human activity and climate change. These rainforests include the Amazon – Brazil, The Blue Mountains – Australia, Yosemite National Park – USA and the Sumatran Rainforest – Indonesia.

“At many sites, human activities such as logging and the clearance of land for agriculture cause emissions to be greater than sequestration. The increasing scale and severity of wildfires, often linked to severe periods of drought, is also a predominant factor in several cases. Other extreme weather phenomena, such as hurricanes, contributed at certain sites.

“We now have the most detailed picture to date of the vital role that forests in World Heritage sites play in mitigating climate change,” – Tales Carvalho Resende UNESCO

The report urges strong and sustained protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites and their surrounding landscapes to ensure their forests can continue to act as strong carbon sinks and stores for future generations. To achieve this, the report recommends rapidly responding to climate-related events, as well as maintaining and strengthening ecological connectivity through improved landscape management.” (source: IUCN)

This research was released the same week of the United Nations Climate Change summit (COP26) in Glasgow this week, where over 100 of our world leaders signed the Declaration on Forest and Land Use which commits to ending deforestation by 2030. The declaration recognises “to meet our land use, climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals, both globally and nationally, will require transformative further action in the interconnected areas of sustainable production and consumption; infrastructure development; trade; finance and investment; and support for smallholders, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities, who depend on forests for their livelihoods and have a key role in their stewardship.” (source: COP26 Declaration)

In 2014, a similar deal was made and unfortunately deforestation was not halted. The commitment is vital to meeting the Paris Agreement targets, and it currently lacks the transparency to engage the world to believing that this goal can be achieved by 2030. Land clearing in Bornean and Sumatran rainforests for palm oil production is still occurring at alarming rates every day. Regardless of our leaders signing this declaration, the commitment must include binding legal framework, leaders being held accountable to these targets, and tangible actions taken by each country to reach this before 2030.

Deforestation must end now.

% of forest covered by endorsers: 90.06%
Hectares of forest covered by endorsers: 3,655,690,910
Square miles of forest covered by endorsers: 14,114,695

COP26 Declaration
Research from IUCN on World Heritage Listed sites
Monga Bay – Leaders must be held accountable
Orangutan Alliance – What’s the issue

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