Can we save the world’s forests? | FT Rethink

Since 1990, the world haslost more than 118mn hectares of forest, an arearoughly the size of Libya. The rate of decline is falling. But between 2010and 2020, we still lost around 47mn hectares. However, moves to combatdeforestation are being made. At last November's COP26 Summit,more than 100 world leaders signed a global commitmentto halt the destruction.

Of the world's forests. Under the deal, countriesthat are home to more than 85 per cent of theworld's forests agreed to stop and even reverse forestloss by the end of the decade. 30 financialinstitutions also pledged to eliminate their exposure toagricultural commodity-linked woodland destruction by 2025. But voluntary deforestationpledges have been made before, and they failed todeliver on their promises.

Much of the scepticism overthe COP deforestation pledge was centred on Brazil,home to the biggest section of the Amazonrainforest which has experienced a sharp rise indeforestation under President Jair Bolsonaro. He has often expressed sympathyfor forest clearing industries, such as mining and agriculture. One important factorto consider is how any new rules designedto end deforestation.

Might impact local communitiesin developing countries that depend on clearing treesto grow their crops. One solution might beincentivising people to keep trees standingrather than punishing them for cutting them down. These projects protect existingforests or plant new ones. They generate carboncredits, which companies can buy to offset their emissions. The aim is to keepcarbon-absorbing trees standing.

And provide an alternativesource of income for people who mightotherwise chop them down. Forestry and land use projectsnow account for almost half of all the offsets generatedby different types of carbon offsetting projects. Offsetting is not a newidea, but schemes like these have become more and morepopular in the last 18 months. And sales of offsetsacross all project types are set to rise above $1bnfor the first time this year.

However, carboncredit projects have been plagued by accusationsof bad faith and concerns that they do not alwaysdeliver what they promise. Experts are now tryingto come up with rules to make the system morewatertight in the hope that a robust carbon marketmight help protect the world's forests. The scheme could alsowork at a national level with rich countries payingpoorer rainforest nations.

For good results, meaningmore healthy forest. But done badly, itcould be another way for companies and governmentsto greenwash their images.Can we save the world’s forests? | FT Rethink

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