NAIROBI, June 29 (Swara) – Primary rainforest loss in the tropics accelerated in 2022, marking a 10 per cent increase from 2021, according to new data from the University of Maryland and the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch platform.

The loss in tropical primary forest in 2022 reached 4.1 million hectares, an equivalent to losing 11 soccer fields of forest per minute. This loss resulted in the emission of 2.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, akin to India’s annual fossil fuel emissions.

The surge in forest loss comes just a year after the leaders of 145 countries pledged in the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use to halt and reverse forest loss by the end of the decade, acknowledging forests’ crucial role in combating climate change and biodiversity loss. The current trend contradicts these commitments, indicating a failure to consistently reduce primary forest loss.

Forests are pivotal ecosystems in mitigating climate change, supporting livelihoods, and conserving biodiversity. With the ongoing climate crisis serving as a “final warning,” reducing deforestation remains one of the most cost-effective terrestrial measures to combat climate change. Forests act as both carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide when intact or regrowing, and sources, emitting carbon dioxide when cleared or degraded.

Forests play a critical role for around 1.6 billion people, including nearly 70 million Indigenous Peoples, who rely on them for their livelihoods. Deforestation, particularly in the tropics, impacts local temperatures and rainfall, exacerbating the local effects of global climate change. These changes can further impact human health and agricultural productivity.

Forests house the majority of the Earth’s biodiversity. The Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in 2022 highlights the urgency to halt and reverse the loss of natural ecosystems, including forests.

Nationally, primary forest loss has risen in countries with the most tropical forests, such as Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has seen rapid increases in other nations like Ghana and Bolivia. Meanwhile, Indonesia and Malaysia have successfully maintained near-record low levels of primary forest loss.