COP21: The Future of our Forests

The COP21 climate talks in Paris ended successfully with 195 nations agreeing on a deal in which they say that they "will attempt to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise "well below" 2C". And, much to my delight, this deal directly addresses the role of the worlds forests.

This issue is addressed many a time during the document, namely in sections 1 and 2 of Article 5, where it says:
  • "Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases … including forests.
  • "Parties are encouraged to take action to implement and support, including through results-based payments… [and] policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation [REDD+], and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon sinks in developing countries."

Deforestation and the destruction of the world's forests, as well as destroying habitats, also accelerates climate change. In fact, deforestation contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions. This makes the highlighting of this issue in Paris even more significant.

One thing that was especially promising was the emphasis that was put on forest conservation during the climate talks. More than 60 head of states brought the topic up and made it clear that they were committed to forest conservation. The Brazilian minister of the environment, Izabella Teixeira, called improper clearing of forests "an environmental crime". It seems evident to me that leaders are acknowledging the situation the planet's forests are in and are trying to tackle the problem.

photo by Yann Caradec, license, no changes made

“It is essential that we reduce deforestation to zero. We need to do the same with forest degradation [which selectively removes trees and biodiversity from forests, leaving them less intact and thus less effective as a carbon sink]. We need to preserve ecosystems. All of that will help us to [reach] 1.5 degree C, and stay under 2 degrees C [of warming]. If we don’t [preserve forests], we can’t. It’s that simple.”

photo by Ben Britten, license, no changes made

Hopefully, the agreements and commitments will be met and efforts will be made by governments across the world to protect our forests.

Sources: NY Times article , Mongabay News article , BBC News article , Inside Climate News article .

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