Tropical rainforest the size of Switzerland lost last year
London — The world lost an area of old-growth tropical rainforest the size of Switzerland last year, as deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon continued unabated, a forest monitoring project report says.
Global Forest Watch, which is backed by the nonprofit World Resources Institute (WRI) and draws on forest data collected by the University of Maryland, revealed that about 41,000km² of tropical rainforest was lost in 2022. That was the final year of Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil, which accounted for more than 40% of all losses.
Despite a global pledge to reach zero deforestation by 2030, tropical forest loss last year exceeded 2021 levels.
“The numbers for 2022 are particularly disheartening,” said Francis Seymour, a WRI official. “We had hoped by now to see a signal in the data that we were turning the corner on forest loss.”
Global Forest Watch assessed “primary forests”, which includes mature forests that have not been cleared or regrown in recent history. Such forests protect against climate change because they absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Last year’s losses in the tropics released some 2.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to India’s annual fossil fuel emissions, the report said.
Indonesia and Malaysia managed to keep forest loss near a record low, continuing a multiyear streak of stamping down deforestation driven by oil palm plantations. Strict Indonesian policies, such as a moratorium on new licences in primary forest and peatland, helped the turnabout.
Other forest-rich nations have struggled to keep up with Asia’s progress. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Bolivia suffered the greatest losses of tropical forest after Brazil.
Commodity agriculture was largely responsible for deforestation in Bolivia, experts said, as the government supports agribusiness expansion. Bolivia is one of few nations not to join the zero-deforestation pledge.
But that pledge has not yet made a difference. The Global Forest Watch analysis found deforestation in 2022 was more than 10,000km² in excess of what would be needed to halt it by 2030.
“We are far off track and trending in the wrong direction,” said Rod Taylor, WRI’s global forests programme director.
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