The ever-growing human consumption is the biggest cause of forest and natural habitat destruction due to the vast amounts of resources, products and services required for a bourgeoning population. Direct human causes of deforestation include logging, agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, oil extraction and dam-building. Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contribute significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity. 2020 was meant to be a landmark year in the fight against deforestation – a year by which many companies, countries and international organizations had pledged to halve or completely stop forest loss. Continued losses of primary tropical forests make it clear that humanity has fallen short in meeting these targets.
As in past years, commodity-driven deforestation was the leading cause of tree cover loss (both in primary and secondary forests) in Latin America and Southeast Asia, while shifting agriculture dominates in tropical Africa. In addition, fires and other climate-related impacts continued to play a big role, both in the tropics and beyond. The new data makes it clear that we continue to lose forests at a staggering rate and that many forest-related targets with 2020 deadlines were missed.
The situation is increasingly urgent: the effects of climate change are already being felt, countless species are being lost to the extinction crisis, and forest clearing linked to land-grabbing is having irreversible impacts on the rights, livelihoods and cultural heritage of numerous forest peoples. Initiatives to rebuild economies in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic offer an opportunity to reimagine policies and economies in a way that protects forests before it’s too late.