United Nations Environment Programme

Why do forests matter?

In Forests

At UN Environment Programme, we are working towards a future with healthy and sustainably managed forests around the world – for people and planet.

Limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C will be impossible without a major role for forests, both because of the massive emissions reductions that can be achieved by ending deforestation and because of the additional carbon that can be sequestered through improved forest management and reforestation.

Eliminating emissions from deforestation and increasing carbon removals by promoting forest regrowth and landscape restoration could reduce global net emissions by up to 30 per cent, and over the next decade, forests could provide as much as 50 per cent of the cost-effective mitigation available.

Forests also provide non-carbon services that are essential for human societies to thrive: from its role in sustaining livelihoods to providing water and food security, and regulating global rainfall patterns.

However, each year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed. This deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation and land degradation also undermine efforts to build resilience to climate impacts and threaten forest dwelling communities.

The production of agricultural commodities, including palm oil, beef, soy, timber, and pulp and paper, drives around 70 per cent of tropical deforestation. Halting this trend requires decoupling commodity production from deforestation.

At UN Environment Programme, we have identified three building blocks that are essential for a global transformation in the protection and sustainable management of forests: know-how, enabling conditions and finance.

Our key initiatives and partnerships to support these building blocks include the following:

  • UN-REDD Programme
  • Tropical Landscape Finance Facility
  • Seed Capital Assistance Facility for forest and landscape restoration
  • Global Forest Watch 2.0
  • Global Landscapes Forum
  • Global Peatlands Initiative
  • (The Mau Forest)

The potential gains are enormous: By investing $30 billion in fighting deforestation, we can earn a return of $2.5 trillion in saved products and services. Targeted investments in forestry can also generate up to millions of jobs.

We catalyse and support such investments by generating knowledge on the socioeconomic value of forest ecosystem services; promoting cross-sectoral awareness; supporting planning and policy reforms; and developing capacity in developing countries.

Many leaders have already glimpsed the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets. But for the world to see a true transformation in forest management, forests need to become a universal political priority.

In Forests