Our problem to solve
Vast forests across Europe and North America were lost in previous centuries. Later, the trend shifted to the tropics: roughly a quarter of all tropical forests, about 500 million hectares (an area 20 times the size of the UK), has been lost since 1950. Today, many of the 10 billion trees lost annually are felled in the tropics.
Demand for commodities such as timber, wood pulp, palm oil, soy, beef, rubber, cocoa, metals and oil is putting severe pressure on forests. Trees that once stood on farmlands are removed as part of industrial farming practices. Logging, burning, fragmentation and loss of ecologically critical wildlife species further degrade the health of surviving forests.
It is possible
Unsustainable consumption and production choices are enabled by weak governance, policies that do not value the services provided by trees and forests, and poorly directed financial flows. However, we see these challenges as surmountable: as humans are the cause, we can also be the solution.
Humanity has the knowledge and skills to halt deforestation worldwide. Individual countries have ended deforestation in many regions. And while global clearance has yet to slow, we are seeing increasing amounts of regrowth. In truth, we will never lose all our forests; the question is how much we lose and what the repercussions will be for the climate, for people and for biodiversity. The answer to that question is in the hands of this generation.
Case Study: Towards “zero deforestation” rubber
Although the main rubber industry body, the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), has been piloting voluntary "sustainability guidelines,” BirdLife’s review indicated they were weak and written without stakeholder inputs. BirdLife proposed the first round table discussion between companies, associations and civil society, which was held in May 2016 by the IRSG with BirdLife support. Participants agreed that economic sustainability requires environmental and social sustainability, and that there is a need for a zero deforestation commitment and supply chain transparency. BirdLife is now working with the IRSG and partners to advance this agenda.
‘The right trees in the right places’
Strategies for protection and restoration must be assessed site by site, with the full participation of local stakeholders to find the best approach. With better productivity on farms, for example, large areas of forest land can be spared from clearance. Trees can regrow in previously degraded forests, and abandoned land can be replanted or naturally restored.
Trillion Trees aims primarily to support the restoration of natural forests and native trees. However, in some settings we envision supporting efforts to grow other trees for fuel, timber and other products in order to both provide livelihoods and reduce pressure on natural forests.
Case Study: Deforestation-free Ibis Rice in Cambodia
This award-winning project has been proven to simultaneously reduce deforestation, improve community livelihoods, and conserve critically endangered birds in Cambodia’s Northern Plains landscape. The project works with 800 rice farmers across 13 villages to improve production on existing fields and prevent agricultural expansion into important habitats. Produce is certified wildlife friendly, and sold in premium markets. Aided by support from WCS’s Conservation Enterprise Development Programme, the project is expanding rapidly, and BirdLife Cambodia is working with WCS to bring the project into the Siem Pang Landscape, increasing both the future Ibis Rice supplies and the conservation impact.