Opinion: Forests can help make war or peace

26 March 2014

By Janpeter Schilling and Janani Vivekananda

Globally, around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, water, fuel, shelter and income. Some 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests. At the same time, forests absorb and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas driving climate change.

In conflict-affected areas, availability and access to forest resources can either make conflict worse or contribute to peace. If you accept the case, as many do, that the impacts of climate change make it harder to build peace, there is also a compelling argument that mitigating climate change by reducing deforestation could offer a significant peace dividend, depending on how it is done.

Yet despite the importance of forests to both climate change mitigation and peace, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. Every year about 13 million hectares (roughly the size of Portugal) are being destroyed.

To combat deforestation and preserve forests as carbon sinks, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2005 introduced a mechanism called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

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