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Deforestation and forest degradation

Introduction

Forests cover roughly 30% of the world's land area. Besides their intrinsic beauty, richness and unique diversity, they are a major provider of various vital components of a healthy, functioning Earth. They host 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and are an essential source of timber, food, medicine, fibre and shelter. More than 1.6 billion people rely on forests and their livelihoods and cultural integrity dependent on them. Forests also play a significant role in providing clean air, regulating the water cycle, capturing CO2, and preventing climate change and soil erosion.

However, forests are rapidly disappearing around the world. Deforestation – the permanent destruction of forests and woodlands and conversion to non-forest uses – and forest degradation – the loss of the forests’ capacity to provide their essential goods and services – are the biggest threats to forests. In the last 60 years, more than half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed. While the phenomenon is not new, the current scale and pace of destruction is alarming. In 2017, more than one football pitch of forest was lost every second – the second highest recorded since 2001.

Deforestation occurs most concentrated in tropical rainforests. Tropical forests are disappearing at a rate of about 13 million hectares per year (approximately the size of Greece). This magnitude of destruction has significant social, economic and environmental impacts, not only at local level, but also globally.

Deforestation and forest degradation negatively affect many of the EU’s global objectives in various policy fields such as biodiversity protection, climate change, human rights, peace and security, good governance and the rule of law. Therefore, substantial action to combat deforestation and forest degradation is needed to enable the EU to meet its related international commitments.