Areas of forest 'threadbare' from deforestation on the northern borders of the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

Climate and forestry

The planet faces two crises - catastrophic climate change and the devastating loss of biodiversity

Tropical rainforests

Tropical rainforests are the most biodiverse places on earth – they support around three quarters of the planet's land-based species. The world's forests are also the 'lungs of the world'.

They store huge quantities of carbon and act as one of the key regulating mechanisms for the global climate. In this way, the world's whole human population depends on tropical rainforests. More directly, millions of people live in and depend on them.

The forests of the world are disappearing at the rate of one football pitch every second. This is a disaster for the climate, as well as for people and wildlife. Tropical deforestation accounts every year for almost one tenth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, tackling deforestation is also one of the cheapest ways to stop dangerous climate change.

That's why ongoing UN talks to develop a global climate deal for the period after 2020 offer a special opportunity for saving the world's rainforests and all the benefits they provide.

The issue of supporting developing countries to keep their forests standing and thus reward them for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation (known as REDD: 'Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries') is a key part of the Paris Agreement of 2015.

Offering hope

The new global climate deal offers hope for injecting new funds into tropical forest protection.

But it's vitally important that as these mechanisms develop, they should operate with strong safeguards to protect biodiversity and indigenous people's livelihoods.

We'll be pressing the UK government and EU delegation to make sure UN talks deliver sufficient finance to rainforest countries to ensure they have enough resources to effectively deliver safeguards. 

Early morning mists rise over the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

Land use, land use change and forestry

We're deeply concerned about the current state of play in UN negotiations on emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), which pertains to emissions from land and forest management in Annex I, or developed countries.

These negotiations are separate from talks around Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries, known as REDD, which treat carbon impacts from tropical forestry in a more accurate way.

Methods of land and forest management in many of these countries – such as Canada, Russia and Australia - not only fail to sequester as much carbon as they might, these sectors are actually significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions because of the intensive management methods used. In current talks, some developed countries are pushing for carbon accounting rules which would hide these emissions.

We could end up with a situation where the international rules on forest carbon accounting are sufficiently vague or flexible that countries could present their forests as resources which sequester carbon when the reality is very different. 

We fear that if talks proceed as they have to date, with countries making up their own rules on how they account for forest carbon, nations such as Russia and Canada could end up with carbon balance sheets which are a pure fiction. That will be disastrous for the planet.

We are urging far greater resolve on the UK's part in holding fellow rich nations to account on this critical issue. The UN negotiations must deliver rules on LULUCF which account for these sectors' actual impact on the global climate.

Corrimony RSPB reserve, commercial forestry plantation of pine and larch