Forests disappearing at alarming rate, says UN

Global greenhouse effect takes an 'upward path and ominous trend'

A UN report on progress of nations towards achieving Millennium Development Goals for the year 2013 has said that forests are disappearing “at an alarming rate”, and the global greenhouse effect has taken “an upward path and ominous trend”.

The report released this week says: “Forests are disappearing at a rapid pace, despite the establishment of forest policies and laws supporting sustainable forest management in many countries.

The largest net loss of forests has occurred in South America and Africa — around 3.6 million hectares and 3.4 million hectares per year, respectively, in the 2005-10 period.” It adds, “Close to 75 per cent of the world’s forests are covered by national forest programmes.

However, in many cases, deforestation is caused by factors beyond a programme’s control. One of the primary drivers of deforestation is the conversion of forests into agricultural land to feed the world’s growing population.”

The report says that the loss of forests has the biggest effect on the rural poor, for whom forests serve as “safety nets”. They contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods by providing food, wood fuel, medicines and non-wood products used in the households of millions of the world’s poorest people or sold in traditional or informal sector markets.

The UN report expresses its concern that deforestation poses a serious threat to environmental sustainability and is jeopardising progress towards poverty and hunger eradication.

“More integrated approaches between agriculture and forest sectors are needed to make real progress in reversing the loss of natural resources, including forests, and to fulfil international commitments related to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management,” recommends the report.

The report also reveals that at the start of the economic and financial crisis, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) declined between 2008 and 2009. CO2 emissions increased by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2010, and are now 46 per cent above their 1990 level.

“Data collected over two decades show that the growth in global emissions has accelerated. The rise in emissions has been spurred largely by fast-paced growth in developing regions. In those regions, CO2 emissions increased 7 per cent between 2009 and 2010, versus 3 per cent in developed regions,” says the report.

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