Good governance the key to reverse forest loss and degradation

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP27 took place in Egypt this month, marking another important milestone in our fight against climate change.

COP27 seeks to accelerate global climate action through emissions reduction, scaled-up adaptation efforts and enhanced flows of appropriate finance.

As we saw in Glasgow last year, progress at COP summits is notoriously difficult. Different nations have competing economic and environmental interests, with big issues such as energy often prompting division between the developed and developing world.

However, one area that has seen promising cooperation in recent years is global deforestation.

Deforestation is now an urgent issue, with 12% of all human emissions a result of tropical forest degradation. For the first time in human history, global forest cover is now below 4 billion hectares, which reduces our carbon storage capacity and threatens precious biodiversity.

World leaders pledged to tackle this issue at COP26 last year, promising to halt and reverse this forest loss and degradation by 2030. This is being reaffirmed and echoed in Egypt, with many signatory countries adding additional finance as well as greater peer-led accountability for this pledge.

With tropical forests in the limelight again, it is important to tackle the misconceptions about the timber industry and deforestation. It is frequently assumed that because timber requires cutting down trees, our industry is one of the core drivers of tropical deforestation. This could not be further from the truth.

Deforestation is often a result of poor forest governance, whereby weak regulation and accountability allow for uncontrolled (and often illegal) conversion of forest land to other uses, such as agriculture or mining. The timber industry has proved time and again that where good regulation is present, the timber trade catalyses, rather than hinders, tree growth and biodiversity.

This video is a great example of this. In the northern forest regions of the Republic of Congo, effective regulation and FSC certification have ensured that timber companies such as Interholco protect biodiversity, expand once-felled forest areas, and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local people. This has sustained healthy gorilla populations and contributes to the protection of the earth’s second lung – the Congo Basin.

We welcome the pledges from international governments this week, however, if we are to make real progress on halting deforestation, we must create good governance in our tropical forests through regulation and market incentives.

This is why at COP26, in conjunction with 15 other timber trade associations, Timber Development UK launched the Tropical Timber Accord – a call to action from the international timber industry to strengthen legal governance and forest supply chains.

By facilitating a coalition of key stakeholders in timber-producing countries, we can ensure the forest economy is harnessed in a fair and sustainable way.