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WWF warns of massive forest loss

April 27, 2011 at 12:40 PM   |   Comments

JAKARTA, April 27 (UPI) -- More than 568 million acres of forest worldwide will disappear by 2050 if no action is taken, a new WWF report warns.

The report calls on governments and businesses to unite around a goal of zero net deforestation and forest degradation, or ZNDD, by 2020 as a global benchmark to avoid dangerous climate change and reduce biodiversity losses.

"We are squandering forests now by failing to sort out vital policy issues such as governance and economic incentives to keep forests standing," said Rod Taylor, WWF International Forests director, in a statement.

The two goals of ZNDD and meeting global demand for materials and energy pose both challenges and business opportunities for the forest products sector, the "Living Forests" report notes.

"Forest products are renewable and, when sourced from well-managed natural forests and plantations, tend to have a lower footprint than alternatives like steel, concrete and plastic based on fossil sources," it states.

The loss of natural or semi-natural forest now stands at 32 million acres a year, WWF says.

Maintaining near zero forest loss in the longer term will require responses to rising pressures on forests due to demand for food, materials and fuel for a growing population, which WWF says is expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050.

WWF released a portion of the report Wednesday to coincide with the opening of the Business 4 Environment Global Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"The need for a careful balance between development and environmental stewardship is increasingly obvious, as is the need to involve the private sector in attaining that balance," said Suryo Sulisto, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, speaking on the sidelines of the summit.

Indonesia, for its part, aims to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that with international climate aid, emissions could be reduced by 42 percent.

Resource-rich Indonesia is one of the world's largest suppliers of coal, palm oil and timber. It boasts the world's third-largest tropical forest but has the second-highest deforestation rate in the world after Brazil.

Continued deforestation and rising carbon emissions plague the country as it struggles to balance environmental preservation with economic growth that topped 6 percent last year.

Indonesia ranks as the fifth largest carbon emitter in the world, with deforestation and forest degradation accounting for more than 80 percent of its emissions.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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