A new report by London-based think tank Chatham House indicates that illegal logging is down 22 percent worldwide since 2002. This decrease may have kept between 1.2 billion and 14.6 billion metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, thereby reducing the impact of deforestation on global climate change.
Reasons for this decline vary by country; a 50-75 percent reduction in Brazil is partially the result of a government crackdown on illegal logging led by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, while a 75 percent reduction in Indonesia has been aided by pressure from nonprofit organizations. Not only does this decline in illegal activity leave more forests standing and resources intact, but continuing to reduce deforestation is thought to be a more cost-effective climate change mitigation activity than the carbon trade.
This is exciting news for us here at CI, as we have been working for more than 20 years to reduce tropical deforestation that threatens our resources, species and, ultimately, livelihoods. However, we haven’t won the battle yet. Illegal logging in Indonesia may be falling, but in nearby Papua New Guinea and other countries, it continues at a dangerous rate. Even nations currently boasting success could easily reverse course, as shifts in political control often cause policy reform.
For the fate of the world’s forests, this decline in illegal logging is a promising sign…but much remains to be done.