World's leading scientific research centers on forestry and agroforestry react to new U.N. study on forests

Media Advisory: Experts from the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry weigh in on the “State of the World’s Forests 2022"

Bogor, Indonesia (3 May 2022) - The “2022 State of the World’s Forests” (SOFO) was launched on Monday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to coincide with the World Forestry Congress in Seoul happening this week from 2-6 May. This flagship report is updated every two years based on the latest forestry research and data, and several scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) were among its contributing authors.

The study’s main takeaway is that global recovery is rooted in forests. Trees and forests can help the world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic aftershocks, in addition to combating climate change and biodiversity loss. Estimates indicate that more than half of world’s gross domestic product – $84.4 trillion in 2020 – is dependent upon ecosystem services, including those provided by forests.

“Although this latest report isn’t startling with regard to research, it details a course of action long promoted by CIFOR-ICRAF by providing a financial roadmap for policymakers and the private sector to follow,” said Robert Nasi, the organization’s managing director.

In particular, the SOFO sets out how halting deforestation and maintaining forests could avoid significant greenhouse-gas emissions – about 14 percent of the reduction needed up to 2030 to keep planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. By restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry, 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land – an area twice the size of Australia – would benefit from restoration and increasing tree cover could boost agricultural productivity on another 1 billion hectares. Lastly, sustainably using forests and building green value chains would help meet future demand for materials – with global consumption of all natural resources expected to more than double from 92 billion tons 2017 to 190 billion tons in 2060, driven by the projected growth of the global population to 9.8 billion people by 2050.

Global Deforestation Trends

The SOFO comes just days after startling deforestation figures for 2021 were released via the Global Forest Watch. From the Brazilian Amazon to the Congo basin, the tropics lost 11.1m hectares of tree cover last year, including 3.75m ha of primary forest.

CIFOR-ICRAF, which conducts research on forestry and agroforestry in developing countries to inform policy across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, has operating offices in the DRC, Indonesia, Brazil and Peru, and is closely monitoring these trends.

“The capacity of tropical countries to address forest conservation may have been undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Manuel Guariguata, a principal scientist for CIFOR-ICRAF and Lead for Peru. “During 2020, the total area deforested across the global tropics doubled with respect to pre-COVID-19 values the year before. Shutdowns and public health concerns pushed the political priorities away from forests and trees.”

“The pandemic has underscored the need for creating shorter supply chains and more diverse and resilient systems," said Vincent Gitz, CIFOR-ICRAF’s Director for Latin America. “To this end, we are working in the Brazilian state of Para with project partners Amazon and the Nature Conservancy, as well as local communities, in our ‘Agroforestry and Restoration Accelerator Project’ to establish diversified agroforestry systems on degraded land and to cultivate markets for sustainable forest-based commodities.”

“The SOFO mentions halting deforestation as a key pathway. In an Amazonian context, particular attention should be given to the demonstrated role of Indigenous and local communities in this regard,” said Guariguata. “Almost half of the intact or primary forest cover across the Amazon Basin falls within formally recognized, indigenous lands.”

In fact, smallholder farmers, local communities and Indigenous Peoples own or manage at least 4.35 billion ha of forest and farmlands. Studies show that 91 percent of all indigenous and community lands are in good or moderate ecological condition, indicating great potential to cost-effectively reduce deforestation, according to the report. Moreover, smallholder farmers produce almost 80 percent of the world’s food.

Yet less than 2 percent of global climate finance is reaching smallholders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities in developing countries. Total financing to halt deforestation, restore degraded land and build sustainable value chains must triple by 2030 and increase fourfold by 2050 to meet climate, biodiversity and land degradation neutrality targets, with the estimated required finance for forest establishment and management alone equalling $203 billion a year by 2050, the SOFO report adds.

“In general, it’s not the technical solutions we are missing; but the set of incentives currently in place,” said Paolo Cerutti, CIFOR-ICRAF Senior Scientist and Lead for DRC. “In countries that are extremely poor, like the DRC, the question remains: ‘How do you ensure incentives, including financial ones, trickle down to the smallholder farmers so they can reduce the environmental impact from activities that they need to conduct for their basic survival, like cutting down trees for fuelwood?”

“Despite the general squeeze placed on forest-dependent Indigenous Peoples, local and low-income communities, we have no shortage of money,” Nasi said. “Governments are estimated to spend $1.8 trillion a year in military expenditures and more than $5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies, but only about $50 billion on landscape restoration. It’s time for society to rethink our priorities to enable a better future.”

CIFOR-ICRAF scientists will be presenting their latest research at the World Forestry Congress this week to discuss the state and future of world forestry trends. Watch here.

A GLF Live Q&A by the Global Landscapes Forum (an initiative co-founded by CIFOR-ICRAF, UNEP and the World Bank) will take place on 4 May at 12:00 CEST with Ewald Rametsteiner, deputy director of FAO’s Forestry Division, who coordinated the SOFO 2022 and Musonda Mumba, director for The Rome Centre for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Register here.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) envision a more equitable world where trees in all landscapes, from drylands to the humid tropics, enhance the environment and well-being for all. CIFOR and ICRAF are CGIAR Research Centers.