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Reduce deforestation

Deforestation is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of global carbon emissions.

That’s more than the emissions from every car, every plane, every boat, every train – more than the whole of the transport sector put together

Movie: Emissions by sector

It is vital that we halt this destruction. We have to consider instead, how we can sustainably manage the world’s forest resource – after all, only seven per cent of all the world's forests are needed to satisfy the current demand for timber.

Hardwood firewood timber stack.

In the UK we manage our woods and forests sustainably, so the planting and growing of new trees reabsorbs the carbon released by harvesting and using mature trees. Our public forests – those managed by the Forestry Commission – are independently certified as being sustainably managed. Many privately-owned woodlands have similar assurance through the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™ (PEFC™) schemes. The same cannot always be said of the forests in many other parts of the world, and we must act with like-minded governments to help promote sustainable management. If we can do this, we can help reverse the trend of releasing carbon into the atmosphere because of forest destruction. If we establish new forests as well as stop this destruction, we will see even more carbon being stored in newly planted and growing trees.

The international community is considering a number of initiatives to help developing countries combat their problems with deforestation. One already in place in the EU is the ‘Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade’ Action Plan first adopted in 2003. The plan includes measures to discourage the use of illegally cut timber in EU countries and measures to help enforce existing legislation in producer-countries. It also allows for a licensing scheme by which producer countries can guarantee that their timber is legally produced. Another is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2008) which acknowledges the contribution of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation to global man made Greenhouse Gas emissions. This resulted in an agreement to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Key facts:

    • over half of the world’s forest area has disappeared


    • average forest cover across the EU is 36 per cent


    • GB forest cover is estimated at 12 per cent


    • the annual net global loss of forest area between 2000 and 2005 was over seven million hectares per year, an area about half the size of England


  • forest loss (deforestation) is the world's second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Key messages:

    • the World’s forest area is decreasing but the net rate of loss is slowing.


    • forest loss (deforestation) is the world's second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.


  • a forest’s survival depends on its value to the local community.


Last updated: 22nd September 2016