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Forests and climate

Aerial view of the rainforest, Anavilhanas National Park, Brazil

Forests are veritable treasure troves of nature. They provide food, water, raw materials for building and other purposes, fuel and medicinal plants – as well as living space for millions of people. And they are home to about 75 per cent of all known plant and animal species. The ‘lungs of the world’, as forests are sometimes known, produce oxygen, bind carbon dioxide and thus have a major influence on the Earth’s climate. They store water and help regulate temperature and rainfall. In short, forests are vital to the survival of the human race.

Yet some seven million hectares of forest – an area the size of Bavaria – are lost every year. Much of this deforestation occurs in the tropics. Thanks to the efforts of the international community, the rate of forest loss has slowed since the 1990s, but given the importance of forests for the environment and the climate it is still cause for concern.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), around 11 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions arise from forest loss. Climate change mitigation and forest conservation must therefore go hand in hand. The goal of keeping global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels cannot be achieved unless forest loss is halted.

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