Photo: Chris Bartnik
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE, we tend to fixate on the emissions aspect. On how all of our coal power plants and all of our cars are pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. But this is only part of the equation. Trees and plant life absorb a lot of the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere. So when we destroy forests, we’re also guaranteeing that more of our carbon dioxide stays in the air. On top of that, forests are important ecosystems, and ripping them apart can lead to ecological collapse. While we’ve made promising steps towards lowering emissions over the last year, we haven’t made as big of steps towards ending deforestation.
Which is why the news coming out of Norway is so huge: the Scandinavian country just became the first to ban deforestation. The Norwegian government may no longer procure goods that are linked to deforestation.
Goods that are specifically linked to deforestation include palm oil (which can be found in a wide array of foods), beef, soy, and, of course, timber.
Norway has also been working with South American countries to try and stop or slow deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. This has had a huge effect on global emissions: the decrease in Amazon deforestation in Brazil over the past decade has been the largest single cut in emissions worldwide. The Norwegian government also started working with the African country of Liberia in a deal that trades international aid for decreases in deforestation. So Norway has been doing good work in the fight against deforestation for years — but the commitment to zero deforestation is huge.
This most recent step by the Norwegian government comes from a commitment they made to zero-deforestation back in 2014, along with Germany and the UK. But Germany and the UK have yet to take the same measures as Norway.
“Other countries should follow Norway’s leadership, and adopt similar zero deforestation commitments,” said Nils Hermann Ranum, of the organization Rainforest Foundation Norway. While other countries have not yet made a similar pledge, there are other countries that are doing good things. Bhutan, for example, has become the world’s only carbon negative country, while simultaneously growing their economy. And the US, Mexico, and Canada recently made huge commitments to get more of their power from renewable resources.
There’s no shortage of bad news when it comes to our climate, but it does seem that we’re seeing good news more and more frequently.