In Glasgow, the forest was the big issue. What is its impact on the climate crisis?

At the World Climate Conference in Glasgow, more than 100 heads of state and government pledged to intensify the fight against the destruction of forests. The destruction of forests through deforestation is to be stopped by 2030. The participating states, including Brazil and Russia, are together responsible for more than 86% of the global forest area. For this purpose, funds of around USD 12 billion are planned from the public purse and an additional USD 7.2 billion from the private sector. However, the initiative does not contain any binding goals or measures and is therefore viewed critically by environmental organizations such as WWF: “Our forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Their protection is in the very best interests of mankind. We can only stop the current era of the destruction of nature with an international show of strength. "The announcement by the heads of state and government points in the right direction, but threatens to fizzle out if it is not quickly secured with binding agreements," emphasizes Dr. Susanne Winter, Forest Program Manager at WWF Germany. As early as 2014, participants at the UN climate summit in New York announced within the “New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF)” that deforestation would be significantly halted. The stated goal was to stop deforestation by 2030. In an intermediate step, the loss of forest area should be halved by 2020. According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, the target was clearly missed.

Our earth is covered with a share of 71% with water, 29% of the earth's surface consists of land mass. 31% of the land area is covered with forest, which corresponds to a size of approx. 4 billion hectares. The largest forest areas are in the five countries Russia, Brazil, Canada, the USA and China. These five countries account for 54% of the total forest area. The tropical forests dominate the stock with a share of 45%. The forest area is shrinking globally. 178 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990. However, the rate of deforestation is slowly declining. While the decline between 1990 and 2000 was 7.8 million hectares per year, it was 4.7 million hectares between 2010 and 2020. Germany is one of the wooded countries of the European Union with a forest area of ​​11.4 million hectares. Around 32% of the total area is covered with forest, only agriculture occupies a larger area with a share of 52%. The development of the forest area in Germany is constant to slightly increasing. The reason for this is the intensive cultivation of the land. The most common tree species are spruce (25%) and pine (23%). Due to the drought and the beetle infestation, the condition of the forest in Germany has deteriorated significantly. The vitality, measured by the crown defoliation and death rate, has decreased significantly. The results of the last forest condition survey in 2020 are among the worst since the surveys began in 1984. Land and seas are considered to be carbon stores. Around 2,000 gigatons of CO2 are bound in the soil and plants and around 39,000 gigatons in the sea. By way of comparison: there are currently around 750 gigatons of CO2 stored in the atmosphere and 4,000 gigatons of CO2 in fossil fuels below the earth. The binding of CO2 takes place in a cycle and is not a rigid process. On land, for example, vegetation absorbs CO2 through photosynthesis and converts it into organic material. Part of this carbon is immediately returned to the atmosphere as CO2 when the plants breathe. The plants use the rest for their growth. Dead plant material (humus) is incorporated into the soil in order to be broken down by microorganisms and then released back into the atmosphere as CO2 through their respiration. The change in the ecosystem has a significant impact on the climate. Soil erosion, humus loss and deforestation lead to a significant increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, whereas the build-up of humus in the soil and the planting of new forests lead to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. In forests, 50% of the bound CO2 is in the trees (living biomass) and 50% in the forest floor (dead biomass).

Forests are considered the lungs of the earth and are an important building block against climate change. In Germany, in addition to reforestation, the condition of the forest is also a major issue in terms of climate resilience. Therefore, there are several fields of action: afforestation, sustainable forest management and reduction of emissions along the entire life cycle. In Germany, a large part of the forest is managed privately and publicly (in contrast to tropical forests). Sustainable business models in forestry (Climate-Smart Forestry) can have a positive impact on the climate. This requires climate standards in order to reward or intensify sustainable forestry through certificates. One standard, for example, defines the methods for calculating the net CO2 fixation in forests. An auditor (certifier) ​​works with the recognized standards in the certification process, which is carried out once (during the initial certification) and regularly at certain times. International climate standards are more likely to be designed for developing countries (cf. WWF gold standard) and can only be applied to a limited extent to German conditions. The Ecosystem Value Association (EVA) is currently developing and marketing a forest climate standard for Germany. The recognition is provided by the German Forest Climate Council (with representatives of forest owners, science and politics), which met for the first time at the end of September 2021 to work on the development of the “minimum requirements for a forest climate standard for voluntary climate certificates in Germany”. Germany’s first forest climate standard is to be created in dialogue by 2022. Until 2022, the Forest Climate Council will focus on the scope "Reforestation of areas deforested due to climate change in Germany". A new, sustainable business model is emerging and contributing to solving climate change.

The association "The Future Circle - rethinking the economy, healing planet earth e.V." is a globally active and collaborative association that works in the service of mankind for an economy that is suitable for grandchildren. We inspire and enable companies and organizations to establish sustainable, successful business models with a positive effect on our planet and our society in the interests of future generations and to actively live them. Founded in 2020, experienced managers, managing directors, consultants and scientists are involved in projects, events and publications for a new approach.

Sources: New York Declaration on Forests, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, Bundeswaldinventur und Waldentwicklungs- und Holzaufkommensmodellierung 2014, Waldzustandserhebung 2020; Forest Products Division (FAO), Deutsches Klima Konsortium

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