Tiny Investment in Stopping Deforestation Has Huge Returns For Climate, Jobs, Biodiversity: UNEP

photo: Neil Palmer/International Center for Tropical Agriculture/Creative Commons

Culminating World Environment Day itself, backing up this year's theme of Forests: Nature At Your Service, UNEP has highlighted the social, ecological and economic value of forests--as well as the massive benefits of reducing deforestation. All told investing just* $40 billion globally each year could halve deforestation by 2030, plus increase rates of of reforestation by 140% and create millions of new jobs, according to the Forests in a Green Economy synthesis report. *While $40 billion may sound like a lot of money, when viewed with a global perspective, it's just 0.034% of global GDP. It's not even a drop in the bucket, it's a fraction of the dew collecting on the bucket when it was left out over night.

The benefit of halving deforestation by this point far outweighs the investment. On average, the report says, this investment will yield $3.7 trillion in climate change benefits alone. In terms of benefits to the forestry industry, this investment is likely to yield $600 billion in added value (by 2050, so a longer time frame...).

Overall the report probably doesn't break new conceptual ground for most TreeHugger readers on the importance of preserving and protecting forests, as well as sustainably managing them. However there are a number of useful stats and recommendations that I'll pull out.

Roughly One-Third Of Humanity Uses Wood To Cook

More than 2 billion people depend on wood energy for cooking, heating and food preservation.

Which places comments from Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh on subsidies in context. While saying that blanket subsidies on fossil fuels were counterproductive, establishing subsidies on cooking gas for poor communities so that they don't have to harvest wood for cooking would go a long way to reducing deforestation.

Stopping Deforestation Is As Powerful As Nuclear Power

Halting tropical deforestation and planting new forests could represent the mitigation potential equivalent of doubling current global nuclear energy capacity or constructing new million new wind turbines.

Tropical Deforestation is a 20% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On average 13 million hectares of tropical forests (an area the size of Greece) are disappearing annually. This is equivalent to approximately six billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, contributing up to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This said, the good news in that (if it can be called that), is that deforestation is occurring at a slower rate than in previous decades.

At the launch press conference, Minister Ramesh was keen to point out to the pack of reporters, mostly Indian, that India in fact is not a net deforester. In fact, its area of forest is expanding--even if he entirely poo-poos the idea that the nation will ever reach the long stated goal of 33% of land being returned to forests.

Currently 21% of India is under forest cover, plus an additional 3% under tree cover not in forests. Ramesh insists that the focus has to be not on quantity of forest anymore but on quality of forest.

Read the full report: Forests in a Green Economy: A Synthesis [PDF]

More on Forests
Will Barcoding Trees Save Tropical Forests? (Video)
Sixteen Percent of the World's Mangrove Forests Threatened With Extinction

Tags: Deforestation | Economics | United Nations