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Since 1990, the world has lost more than 118mn hectares of forest, an area roughly the size of Libya. The rate of decline is falling. But between 2010 and 2020, we still lost around 47mn hectares.
However, moves to combat deforestation are being made. At last November's COP26 Summit, more than 100 world leaders signed a global commitment to halt the destruction of the world's forests. Under the deal, countries that are home to more than 85 per cent of the world's forests agreed to stop and even reverse forest loss by the end of the decade.
30 financial institutions also pledged to eliminate their exposure to agricultural commodity-linked woodland destruction by 2025. But voluntary deforestation pledges have been made before, and they failed to deliver on their promises. Much of the scepticism over the COP deforestation pledge was centred on Brazil, home to the biggest section of the Amazon rainforest which has experienced a sharp rise in deforestation under President Jair Bolsonaro.
He has often expressed sympathy for forest clearing industries, such as mining and agriculture. One important factor to consider is how any new rules designed to end deforestation might impact local communities in developing countries that depend on clearing trees to grow their crops. One solution might be incentivising people to keep trees standing rather than punishing them for cutting them down.
These projects protect existing forests or plant new ones. They generate carbon credits, which companies can buy to offset their emissions. The aim is to keep carbon-absorbing trees standing and provide an alternative source of income for people who might otherwise chop them down.
Forestry and land use projects now account for almost half of all the offsets generated by different types of carbon offsetting projects. Offsetting is not a new idea, but schemes like these have become more and more popular in the last 18 months. And sales of offsets across all project types are set to rise above $1bn for the first time this year.
However, carbon credit projects have been plagued by accusations of bad faith and concerns that they do not always deliver what they promise. Experts are now trying to come up with rules to make the system more watertight in the hope that a robust carbon market might help protect the world's forests. The scheme could also work at a national level with rich countries paying poorer rainforest nations for good results, meaning more healthy forest. But done badly, it could be another way for companies and governments to greenwash their images.