The IPCC Special Report on Climate and Land made big news when it was released last month, mainly for its rather grim outlook about our planet’s future. The report confirms much of what is already known about the climate crisis: human activity is changing the climate and temperatures are rising even more quickly than projected. The glimmer of hope in the report’s findings is that if public and private sectors act immediately and definitively, we can still mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. The optimist’s view could be that nature’s resilience may also respond quicker than projected, and limit the impact.
One of the more revelatory points in the report is the role of forests in this mitigation, namely that they play a hugely integral part, at a regional and global level, in climate stabilization. According to the report, “reducing deforestation and forest degradation rates represents one of the most effective and robust options for climate change mitigation, with large mitigation benefits globally.”1
Some other key findings on forests in the IPCC Report:
- Forests affect local, regional and global climates in myriad ways, beyond just storing carbon. Deforestation can contribute to warming or cooling by changing how much sunlight is reflected; reducing evapotranspiration, which cools the air; affecting the release of aerosols and biogenic volatile organic compounds, which can affect cloud formation; and changing the roughness of Earth’s surface, which can affect wind speed.2
- Deforestation and forest degradation are not only significant contributors to the current greenhouse gas emissions problem — they account for around 13% of global emissions — but protecting and restoring forests could play an integral role in the solution, since growing forests act as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Research has estimated these natural carbon sinks can provide 37% of the CO₂ reduction needed to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2℃.3
- The report also notes that improving management of the world’s forests is important for the Sustainable Development Goals. Preserving and restoring forests and peatlands that do not require land use change provides almost exclusively positive impacts on sustainable development, such as reducing poverty and hunger, and enhancing health, clean water, and sanitation.4
The report’s conclusions about the importance of forests support the focus of our work at Canopy, and validate the goal of “Nature Needs Half” – at least 30% of the planet’s forests conserved by 2030 and 50% of the earth dedicated for maintenance of natural ecosystems by 2050 – in all of our work. We know the next nine years need to be the turnaround decade for our planet.
The Nature Needs Half plan is a thread running through all of our work. It’s the motivator behind our collaborations with market partners in the fashion, print, and packaging industries. This work helps companies in these sectors to leverage their buying power to ensure the world’s most vital forests aren’t in their paper, packaging or textiles, and focuses their advocacy for conservation on the ground. Our Nature Needs Half commitment is key to our Next Generation Solutions campaign, outlined in our report, SURVIVAL: A Pulp Thriller, which presents a tangible plan to save 30% or more of the world’s forests by 2030 – an ambitious plan to quickly set the pulp for paper and textiles manufacturing sector on a path towards the solutions. And “Nature Needs Half” fuels our push to end the logging of the towering, old-growth rainforests of Vancouver Island and has seen us gather a group of over 100 prominent citizens in calling for an end to this practice.