Jun 27, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Deforestation jumped 10% last year despite global pledges

Change in primary forest loss
Data: Global Forest Watch/World Resources Institute; Note: Includes countries with at least 1 Mha of tropical primary forest in 2001; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Despite global commitments to halt the loss of tropical forests, the world lost 10% more primary rainforest in 2022 than it did the year before.

Why it matters: The world's tropical rainforests are a vast terrestrial carbon sink, but they are in jeopardy from logging, agricultural expansion and the effects of climate change, which is altering precipitation patterns.

  • Tropical rainforests are also a cradle of biodiversity.

Zoom in: New data released Tuesday morning from the University of Maryland (viewable in detail via the World Resources Institute's Global Forest Watch platform), shows the world lost 4.1 million hectares, or about 10 million acres, of primary rainforest in 2022.

The intrigue: Primary forest loss was higher last year than in 2021 in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which dominate the globe in primary forest coverage.

  • While Brazil had the highest loss of rainforest globally, greater increases in loss rates were seen elsewhere, such as Ghana and Bolivia.
  • Indonesia has limited forest loss rates significantly, compared with a few years ago, the data shows.

What they're saying: "The 2022 numbers are particularly disheartening," said Francis Seymour, a senior fellow at WRI. "Following the bold commitments in Glasgow... We had hoped by now to see a signal that we were turning the corner on forest loss," she said during a press call.

  • "We're headed in the wrong direction."

The bottom line: Voluntary commitments aren't sufficient to keep rainforests intact.

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