Can We Reach Zero Deforestation by 2030? Not at This Rate!

Image by Pok Rie on Pexels

By Esteban Guerra, age 11 and IndyKids staff

Tropical forest loss around the world in 2022 was even worse than 2021, according to a report released in June by Global Forest Watch. 

This increase comes despite a pledge made at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) by 145 countries to reach zero deforestation by 2030. Around 15,800 square miles of tropical forest was lost in 2022, a 10% increase from 2021, according to data from the University of Maryland. As a result of this deforestation, about 2.7 billion tonnes of CO2 was released into the air—equivalent to the fossil fuel emissions of India, one of the most populous nations in the world. Over 10% of worldwide emissions are created by deforestation.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, but when they are cut down, the CO2 stored inside them is released into the atmosphere. CO2 is bad for our environment because it traps more heat from the sun into the atmosphere than needed, which causes the Earth to heat up. Without the help of forests to cut down CO2 levels, more climate issues arise, like ice caps melting, sea levels rising and heating up, heat waves and more. Deforestation often occurs to make way for cattle fields and crops like cotton and wheat. 

Brazil accounted for 43% of the forest loss in 2022. This is partly due to Brazil’s now ex-President Jair Bolsonaro, whose administration stripped environmental policies, ignored illegal deforestation and weakened the rights of Indigenous peoples, who have proven to be effective in sustaining healthy forests. Comparatively, the rate of deforestation has already dropped by 33.6% since President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected in late 2022. In Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia are among the few countries making progress to exceptionally decrease deforestation. Collectively, they cut deforestation by about 25%.

Indigenous peoples, who have always lived in many of the forests being destroyed, are a prominent force in stopping deforestation. Many of these peoples have initiated conservation efforts such as patrolling forests and suing corporations and local governments who cut down their homelands without permission. To reach the goal of zero deforestation by 2030, the report said that governments must direct greater funding for forest protection and to the Indigenous guardians protecting forests around the world.

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