UN Report finds countries far from reducing deforestation, have no concrete plans

Only eight of the 20 countries with the most tropical deforestation have set targets to reduce tree cover loss in their national targets

Time is running out to protect the world’s forests as countries that have promised to halt deforestation by 2030 have not implemented necessary actions, a United Nations report released on June 10, 2024, warned.

Global leaders committed to halt deforestation and reverse forest loss by 2030, as per the Forest Declaration Assessment 2023.

But Raising ambition, accelerating action: Towards enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions for forests noted major gaps in forest protection, management and restoration in terms of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).

The document also found that emissions from deforestation increased since the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use in 2021. The declaration seeks “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation”.

The increase in global deforestation emissions was mostly attributed to Latin America and the Caribbean between 2019 and 2022. The report cited Brazil as an exception and exemplar as its annual decline in deforestation was 22 per cent recently.

All about NDCs

NDC pledges made between 2017 and 2023 did not meet the global goals to halve and reverse deforestation for the said timeline of 2030, according to the report.

Only eight of the 20 countries with the most tropical deforestation have set targets to reduce tree cover loss in their NDCs.

The analysis highlighted Mexico as having included an adaptation target to achieve net zero by 2030. That is, the area reforested would match or exceed the deforested area.

“Other deforestation targets include Bolivia’s target to reduce deforestation by 80 per cent by 2030. Over half of this reduction is conditional on international support. Côte d’Ivoire has an unconditional target to reduce deforestation by 70 per cent (from 2015 levels) by 2030,” according to the report.

Colombia’s NDC states that it will reduce deforestation to 50,000 hectares/year by 2030 and use co-operative approaches under the provisions of the 2015 Paris Agreement to reach net zero deforestation, it added.

The pledges lack clarity, the report said: “For example, five countries have area-based targets (e.g., number of hectares), three have emissions-based targets (e.g., tonnes of CO2 equivalent) and six have both.”

It further added that the NDCs included different aspects of details regarding plans to achieve targets.

Some countries provided a detailed breakdown of actions to be implemented. For instance, Liberia’s NDC contains 14 ‘Mitigation Actions and Policy Measures’ for their forest targets. But others, such as Mexico’s net zero deforestation target, did not provide further details.

Brazil’s updated NDC does not contain any forest-related targets. But its multi-agency Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm) does commit to end deforestation by 2030.

Indonesia’s NDC does not have specific forest commitments. But the country’s Forest and Other Land Use (FOLU) Net Sink 2030 Operational Plan aims to achieve net zero emissions in forest and land use sectors by 2030, the analysis found.

Commitments within the NDCs from the 20 countries with the highest emissions from tree cover loss are not enough to meet the goal, according to the analysis.

“An average of 5.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) was emitted from tropical deforestation per year between 2019 and 2023 for the top twenty countries, according to Global Forest Watch,” the report estimated.

These emissions are over four and a half times the collective emissions from international aviation and shipping.  

Key recommendations

The UN report noted that forests are essential as they offer ecosystem services like maintaining water quality, providing habitat for pollinators and resources for communities. It observed that forests also act as much-needed carbon sinks that contribute in mitigating climate change.

The main reasons for deforestation were agriculture due to the international demand for commodities like oil palm, soybean and beef.

The document called for strengthening, enhancing and aligning forest-based measures mentioned in NDCs and clearly defined national policies. It demanded that developed and forest countries work in tandem to achieve internationally set goals.

It also recommended that forest carbon prices be increased by $30-50 / tonne of CO2 emissions in the carbon market.

The report noted that participation of local communities and indigenous people and recognition of their forest land and carbon rights can play an effective role in protecting forests.

“Improved enforcement of existing laws through intensified raids on illegal activities occurring on Indigenous lands (Agência Brasileira de Inteligência 2023; Ministério dos Povos Indígenas 2023) has contributed to the successful reduction in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in 2023,” it read.

The 30th Conference of the Parties (COP30) to the United Nations Framework Convention  on  Climate Change  (UNFCCC)  in Brazil next year is  a  global  milestone  for ambition on forest protection, according to the report.

“As  countries  prepare  for  the  submission  of  the  next  round  of  NDCs  for  COP30 —  known  as  NDCs  3.0,  with  a  timeframe  extending  to  2035  —  the  report  urges countries,  especially  those  with  extensive  forest  cover,  to  include  concrete, measurable targets on forests in their revised NDCs,” it stated.

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