More than 100 countries promised to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by the end of 2030, underpinned by $19bn in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests. File photo: Kathas_Fotos from Pixabay
More than 100 countries promised to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by the end of 2030, underpinned by $19bn in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests. File photo: Kathas_Fotos from Pixabay

Can Africa wait until 2030 for deforestation?

By Brenda Masilela Time of article published Nov 8, 2021

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Pretoria - As the first major deal at the COP26 summit, leaders from more than 100 countries committed to ending deforestation by 2030, creating a lot of work for Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bolivia.

According to the World Resources Institute Global Forest Review, the four nations, which account for 85% of the world’s forests, are ranked as the top four countries for tropical primary forest loss.

Last Monday, COP26 issued a joint statement in Glasgow which outlined a $19 billion (about R290bn) agreement to invest in the protection and restoration of the forests.

Brazil holds about 60% of the Amazon rainforest, but deforestation has risen since 2004, with a research institute saying it was at its highest last year.

The Global Forest Watch reported that the annual loss of primary forest had been around half a million hectares over the past five years.

The problem with loss of trees and other vegetation is that it causes climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of problems.

Poor forest management policies, including unrestricted logging, excessive harvesting of firewood and medicinal plants, and road construction, contribute to the problem.

However, Africa’s rural poor are particularly dependent on its forests, they rely on wood for heating and cooking, wood supplies about 70% of domestic energy needs, a significantly higher percentage than in the rest of the world.

In a report, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) forestry expert Christian Lambrechts said: “People have to rely on the forest to gain access to specific products they can’t buy on the market.

“They have no cash. They can’t go to the chemist. They have to go to the forest to extract medicinal plants.”

Lambrechts said such exploitation of the forests was inevitable in areas of high poverty and caused no damage when done sustainably. But when large numbers of people were forced to use forests for food and fuel, “it has a local impact on the degradation of the forests”.

Essentially, human activity is the main cause of climate change. Africa is the lowest contributor in carbon emissions and other things that cause climate change, and yet suffers the most.

According to the UNEP, between 20% and 25% of all annual carbon dioxide emissions are caused by the practice of burning forests to clear the land for farming.

The big question is that with all the negative effects Africa is facing from climate change, can it wait until 2030 for deforestation and for developed countries to lower their carbon emissions?

The IGAD Climate Prediction & Applications Centre (ICPAC) has warned that recent scientific reports indicate that the climate crisis is worsening and the impacts will be devastating if left unattended.

The ICPAC said ecological drought and flooding have increased. If greenhouse gas concentration increases, the ocean continues to warm, tropical cyclones that hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe will increase intensity.

In southern Madagascar, four consecutive years of drought have wiped out harvests, leaving more than 1.14 million people food insecure, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the UN, preserving Africa’s surviving tropical forests and planting new trees to replace those lost to deforestation could help reduce the severity of climate change by absorbing more carbon from the air, and ease the local impact of climate change by regulating weather.

To preserve the forest, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among many African countries working with the EU to improve forest governance, Chatam House said in its report.

The policy institute said there were some other initiatives, too, like the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 initiative and the Africa Palm Oil Initiative, which specifically seek to put structures in place to address the palm oil sector among other commodities, which, like cocoa, contribute largely to deforestation across Africa.

“But more needs to be done better resources need to be made available to farmers and there needs to be awareness-building programmes for those working across the agricultural sector so that they understand that, although farming for commodities like cocoa is important to their livelihoods, without forests they will lose the very source of their livelihoods,” Chatam House warned.

Another measure mentioned in the Chatam House report to save forests, is tackling the poverty gap with aid from developed countries.

“It’s our collective responsibility, as a planet, to ensure we bridge the gap between the very poor and the very rich because at the end of the day it will affect us all.

“We have a lot of land area in Africa which means Africans have a responsibility, too, to plant trees in place of the forest area that is being lost to farming and other industries. But we need more support from developed countries in order to do this.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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