Forests: our planet’s lungs under siege

In general silence we are erasing the Earth's forests to make room for soybean crops, palm oil and intensive farming. So we are losing our green lungs, precious allies against the climate crisis: we are sabotaging ourselves...

Forests provide us with oxygen, host approximately 80% of Earth’s biodiversity, and play a pivotal role in mitigating climate change. However, rather than safeguarding these natural treasures, we’re annihilating them at alarming rates. In the past 30 years alone, the world has lost a staggering 178 million hectares of forests, an area triple the size of France.

This deforestation is primarily to make way for soy, palm oil plantations, and intensive livestock farming, which significantly increase pollutant emissions. Every year, five million hectares of tropical forests are converted, particularly to produce beef, cocoa, rubber, coffee, and timber.

The Amazon faces transformation into savannah

Among the most affected forest ecosystems is the Amazon. Over the last 50 years, 17% of its area has been decimated, transformed into crops or pasture lands.

“If this phenomenon were to affect 20-25% of the Amazon, it is believed that the forest would no longer be able to survive, turning into a shrubby savannah within a few decades,” warns the WWF.

Unfortunately, it’s losing this ability. In various areas, the Earth’s green lung, plagued by deforestation, drought, and fires, emits more carbon than it stores: the net emission is about 300 million tons of carbon a year, equal to that generated by France over the same period. This could trigger chain effects on our planet’s climate as if all the carbon now stored in the Amazon forest were released, the average temperature of the planet would increase by 32°F (0.3°C), making it impossible to achieve the Paris Agreement’s target.

We are complicit in deforestation

What happens on the other side of the world affects us more than we might think. Europe, one of the largest importers of products like coffee, meat, palm oil, and dairy, is responsible for 16% of the global deforestation linked to the international trade of commodities. The Old Continent ranks second, after China, in imports associated with forest devastation.

The regulation covers seven products (soy, palm oil, beef, coffee, wood products, printed products, and rubber) and their derivatives, which from December 30, 2024, will only be allowed on the European market if companies can prove they are not the result of deforestation. This will entail a series of checks through so-called due diligence, where importing companies will have to trace the products back to their production site and throughout the supply chain.

Meanwhile, even on a small scale, we can do something to protect forests. How? By starting to reduce meat consumption and only purchasing food and other products made sustainably and supporting reforestation projects.

Source: World Wildlife Fund

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