There are many ways individuals, companies and governments can reduce deforestation. Indeed, it will take action from all three parties to significantly change the current deforestation rate. An average of 28 million hectares of forest are cut down every year.1 This is the equivalent to a football pitch every second.1 Deforestation has continued at this unsustainably high rate since 2016.1 But, deforestation can be significantly reduced.
How Individuals Can Reduce Deforestation
The choices we make as individual consumers can significantly reduce deforestation on a global scale. Economic incentives often drive deforestation.2 Farming, grazing livestock, mining and drilling combined are responsible for over 50 percent of deforestation worldwide.2 Consequently, the products we choose to buy can directly impact deforestation on different continents.
Forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are frequently cleared to make space for palm oil production.3 Palm oil is a versatile vegetable oil that can be found in almost 50 percent of products sold in supermarkets.3 It is also the most efficient vegetable oil crop in terms of amount of oil produced per land area used.3 However, it is extremely important to ensure that the products we buy in supermarkets source sustainably grown palm oil. For example, check that the product is Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified. The RSPO represent the largest, independent, third-party standard for the sustainable production of palm oil.3 As a result, they provide a reliable indication that the product does not contribute to deforestation.
How Companies Can Reduce Deforestation
However, it is not just down to individuals to reduce deforestation. Companies have significant power over their supply chains and have a responsibility to reduce or even better, avoid deforestation.4 This includes holding their suppliers accountable for producing products that reduce deforestation and have the minimum environmental impact.4 Companies should also aim to maximise recycling and the use of sustainable materials to offset their carbon footprint.4
In addition, many companies have committed to planting trees as a direct solution to deforestation. For instance, Ecoasia is a web-search engine that uses ad revenue to plant trees.5 Others also plant trees in response to products sold. Tentree is an apparel company that designs and sells clothes and plants ten trees for every piece of apparel sold.6 Companies like these realise the value of reforestation to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Simultaneously, they appeal to people who want to do more to help. If more companies endeavoured to reduce deforestation and other unsustainable practices, it would give consumers more choice when searching for environmentally friendly products.
How Governments Can Reduce Deforestation
Furthermore, all governments have a monumental responsibility when it comes to reducing deforestation. Policies can certainly encourage sustainable practices. Governments may also prevent individuals and companies from contributing to global deforestation.7 The European Union is the second largest collective market for Brazilian exports; the US is the second largest single market for their products.7,8 Governments in Europe and America therefore have enormous potential to reduce deforestation. They could certainly enact stronger environmental regulations. For instance, to prevent the import of beef or soya farmed on illegally deforested land.7
Governments can also enact policies that will not merely reduce deforestation, but directly counter it. For example, New Zealand has committed to planting one billion trees by 2028.9 Meanwhile, India has pledged to increase its forests by 95 million hectares by 2030.10 Planting trees is a cheap and extraordinarily efficient way to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere when paired with other CO2 reducing actives, such as using less fossil fuels .11 Decisions made at governmental level can have enormous impact and have huge repercussions for individuals and companies alike. It is imperative that action against deforestation such as tree planting is taken from the top down, as well as from individuals and companies.
- Hectares of Forests Cut Down or Burned. The World Counts. https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/forests-and-deserts/rate-of-deforestation Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Nunez, Christina. Deforestation explained. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/. Published February 7, 2019. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- 8 Things to Know About Palm Oil. WWF. https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/8-things-know-about-palm-oil Published January 17, 2020. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Solutions to Deforestation. Greenpeace. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/forests/solutions-to-deforestation/ Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Ecoasia. https://www.ecosia.org/ Accessed June 2, 2020.
- TenTree. https://tentree.co.uk/ Accessed June 2, 2020.
- The Guardian view on Amazon deforestation: Europe must act to prevent disaster. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/28/the-guardian-view-on-amazon-deforestation-europe-must-act-to-prevent-disaster Published July 28, 2019. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Brazil. OEC. https://oec.world/en/profile/country/bra/#:~:text=The%20top%20export%20destinations%20of%20Brazil%20are%20China%20 Accessed June 2, 2020.
- About the One Billion Trees Programme. Te Uru Rākau Forestry New Zealand. https://www.mpi.govt.nz/funding-and-programmes/forestry/one-billion-trees-programme/about-the-one-billion-trees-programme/ Reviewed May 21, 2020. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Pandey, Manish. Climate Change: What is being done around the world to plant trees?. BBC. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-48884165#:~:text=India’s%20tree%20boom,the%20state%20of%20Madhya%20Pradesh Published September 24, 2019. Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Carrington, Damian. Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting-billions-trees-best-tackle-climate-crisis-scientists-canopy-emissions Published July 4, 2019. Accessed June 2, 2020.