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How To Prevent Rainforest Destruction

New positive numbers about the world's rainforests provide lessons on how to prevent deforestation: protect, plant, and pay.

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Ethonomic Indicator of the Day: 25%--amount of decrease in rainforest deforestation

The climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable and global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, but take heart: the destruction of the world's largest rainforests (the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo Mekong) is actually down 25%, according to a new report from ForestCarbon Asia. So what are the governments in charge of these rainforests doing right?

Protect

Over the past decade, the countries of the Congo Basin designated 11% of the land as protected areas. Five countries--Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and the Central African Republic--are reviewing their national forest policies "with a view to improving consistency of actions and integration between the forest sector and other sectors with potential impacts on trees and forests." But besides Indonesia, most countries in Southeast Asia have been slow to enforce forest laws on the ground. This is largely because of lack of resources and conflicting priorities. It's easy to turn the other way when illegal logging is bringing in cash.

Plant

Saving the remainders of the world's rainforests isn't enough; we also need to work on reforestation. In Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand, reforestation has begun to flourish as result of government programs and demand for forest products (and private sector-planted areas). In Thailand, forests are growing on former agricultural land because the " agricultural frontier has, to a greater or lesser extent, been closed."

Pay

The reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) program, a UN-backed initiative that monetarily reward projects which protect threatened forest areas, is being used by Indonesia to slow forest destruction. The country already has 40 REDD projects, and companies including Gazprom have committed to buying forest carbon credits.

Deforestation is still rampant, of course--expansion of the agricultural frontier in the Amazon Basin, urbanization, and population increase in the Congo Basin, and forest degradation from fire, pests, diseases, and logging in Southeast Asia all pose significant challenges. But there is hope. Rainforest-heavy countries like Indonesia and Brazil are continuing to improve their forest management programs. Indonesia just put a two-year ban on new licenses to clear primary peatlands and forests, for example. Perhaps these countries are finally realizing that the resources they possess are invaluable, and, as the REDD program indicates, worth more standing than clear cut.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

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