Cantonal Hojancha was once a major cattle ranching region. Most of this area was cleared for pasture only 30 years ago. Now, many of the residents have moved into the service industry, and the pasture land has slowly converted back to forest. Photo by Aaron Minnick (World Resources Institute)
New analysis from The Nature Conservancy, WRI and others estimates that stopping deforestation, restoring forests and improving forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, or as much as eliminating 1.5 billion cars—more than all of the cars in the world today! In fact, forests are key to at least six of the study’s 20 “natural climate solutions,” which could collectively reduce 11.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s as much as halting global oil consumption, and would get us one-third of the way toward limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels — the threshold for avoiding catastrophic effects of climate change — by 2030.
Stopping Deforestation Offers the Biggest Benefit
Avoided deforestation could deliver more than 40 percent of total emissions reductions offered by low-cost solutions. (Low-cost as defined in the study means it would take less than $100 a year to reduce a ton of carbon dioxide emissions.) Protecting forests also offers the greatest potential to mitigate climate change based on land area. Brazil and Indonesia together contribute more than 50 percent of carbon emissions from tree cover loss across the tropics, and thus offer the greatest mitigation opportunity for avoided deforestation.
Global tree cover loss reached a record high in 2016, with tropical countries especially struggling to curb emissions from deforestation. In the top-emitting tropical countries, beef production, agricultural crops such as soy, and large industrial oil palm plantations are the main drivers of tree cover loss.