This was the first major promise of the Glasgow climate summit: more than a hundred countries have decided to end deforestation by 2030. This is a big step, because 10 percent of global emissions from greenhouse gases come from deforestation. The Australian delegation also signed the plan.
But according to a new analysis commissioned by the Australian newspaper The Guardian the extent of deforestation in Australia is uncertain. The state government records much less deforestation than the state government of Queensland, where most trees are felled. This could mean that deforestation is much more common in Australia than previously thought.
Martin Taylor, a senior lecturer in conservation policy at the University of Queensland, compared the state government figures with those from Canberra. “I have found at least 53 places where the state says deforestation has taken place, but the national government says the forest has not been affected,” Taylor said from his Brisbane office. “It’s strange, of course. That’s why I took the satellite photos and they clearly show that large parts of the forest are gone. You can even see the bulldozer tracks from space.”
Conservation organizations have for years warned against large-scale logging in Australia. According to them, deforestation is just as important in the east of the country as in the Amazon region and Borneo. According to World Wide Fund for Nature Australia is the only developed country on a list of countries with the most deforestation.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has reacted cautiously and positively to the Australian government’s intention to stop deforestation. According to Dermot O’Gorman, director of WWF Australia, there is still a lot to be gained. “At least 370,000 hectares of forest were bulldozed in Australia in 2018”, respond he. This represents three quarters of a million football fields. “This plan must therefore be followed quickly by rapid joint action.”
The trees felled in Australia are mainly replaced by intensive farming. There are 24 million cows in Australia, almost as much as the population. In Queensland, 73 percent of deforestation is linked to livestock for beef production. This has consequences for greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting down trees releases CO2 and cows emit methane.
In addition, the disappearance of the forest has major consequences for the vulnerable animals that depend on this area. Koalas are particularly affected by habitat loss. Typical Australian cuddly animals need a relatively large eucalyptus forest to survive. The loss of living space is one of the main reasons the iconic creature is now endangered.
The koala population has declined by 30% over the past three years. In addition to the logging of forests, it also has to do with the devastating forest fires of two years ago. Millions of hectares of forest, including three billion animals, have been burnt down. Additionally, large populations of koalas suffer from chlamydia, which makes them seriously ill and infertile. According to research ordered by the state government of New South Wales, the koala will become extinct before 2050 without major action.
The national government has yet to comment on the investigation, showing there is a gap between the state of Queensland and government figures. For researcher Taylor, the national measurement method leaves a lot to be desired. “It’s a mystery to me. How can the state say trees have been cut when the national government says the forest is intact? So there is something really wrong with the model of the Australian government. “
Australia is not the only country where calculation methods are sometimes used creatively. This week on. Washington post a study showing that many countries cheat to get the best possible result. According to the researchers, there is a global gap of at least 8.5 billion to 13.3 billion tonnes of unreported emissions per year. This means that the earth can heat up much faster than we currently think.
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