An analysis of satellite data released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) on Tuesday, June 27, revealed that global tropical forest loss in 2022 reached 4.1 million hectares. This is equivalent to losing 11 football fields of forest per minute and resulted in 2.7Gts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The increased loss comes in the first year after heads of 145 countries vowed in the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use to halt and reverse forest loss by the end of the decade. Mikaela Weisse, Director of WRI’s Global Forest Watch, stated that “We are rapidly losing one of our most effective tools for combating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and supporting the health and livelihoods of millions of people.”
Brazil remained the country with the most tropical forest loss, accounting for 43% of the global total in 2022. Its 1.8 million hectares lost resulted in 1.2Gt of CO2 emissions. The analysis showed that forest loss increased in the two countries with the most tropical forest, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The main driver for non-fire related losses in Brazil was deforestation. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, half a million hectares were destroyed in 2022, with the main drivers being subsistence agriculture and the small-scale production of charcoal made by cutting and burning timber. Forest loss also rapidly increased in other nations, such as Ghana and Bolivia. However, Indonesia and Malaysia have managed to keep rates near record-low levels.
The analysis revealed that forest fires in tropical nations like Bolivia are usually set for “agricultural purposes,” such as regenerating grasslands for grazing and clearing for cropland, or to claim land. Other countries rounding out the “top 10” in tropical forest loss worldwide last year include: Peru (3.9%); Colombia (3.1%); Laos (2.3%); Cameroon (1.9%); Papua New Guinea (1.8%); and Malaysia (1.7%). The rest of the world combined accounted for just under 15% of forest lost in 2022.
The situation is not only limited to tropical countries. According to the same analysis, Ireland lost 147kha of tree cover from 2001 to 2022, equivalent to a 17% decrease in tree cover since 2000. This highlights the need for global efforts to halt and reverse forest loss, as trees play a crucial role in mitigating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and supporting the livelihoods of millions of people.
The analysis by WRI serves as a wake-up call for countries to take immediate action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which aims to halt and reverse forest loss by the end of the decade, must be taken seriously and acted upon urgently. As Weisse stated, “We need to see a fundamental shift in the way we manage and protect forests, with a focus on long-term sustainability and the rights and needs of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.”