Deforestation and forest fires release huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Forest destruction (mainly in the tropics) accounts for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions - more emissions than from the world's entire transport sector. And the soils in which forests grow store huge amounts of carbon which the world cannot allow to be released as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Smoke from forest fires drifts in the forest interior. Palm oil companies are clearing forest and peatlands with fires in preparation for oil palm plantations.
© Greenpeace / Vinai Dithajohn
Preventing dangerous climate change demands a global effort to significantly reduce forest destruction and our use of coal, oil and gas.
Reducing emissions caused by deforestation must be a central part of the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol. This calls for legally-binding commitments with targets and timeframes. A mish-mash of voluntary efforts will simply not cut it. Think of any athlete aiming for the gold medal and it is immediately clear why targets are essential. In addition, a global funding mechanism which transfers money from industrialised to developing countries to pay for forest protection is also part of the equation.
If deforestation continues unchecked not only will we lose irreplaceable forests that are home to unique plants, animals and people but also drive climate change at an ever faster pace.