Throughout human history, forests have evoked profound emotions. Centuries ago, dense forests were largely seen as frightening and dangerous places. As societies evolved and populations expanded, forests became increasingly exploited for their timber and energy resources, with little regard for their ecological value. Today, forests hold much more worth and there are increasing efforts to include principles and standards in management decisions. Few topics remain as contentious as forests, with debates spanning economic, social, political, and scientific boundaries. People value forests that exist tens of thousands of kilometers away that they will likely never see or experience in real life.
From a climate change perspective, forests play a crucial role in storing vast quantities of carbon, and continue to sequester large amounts of CO2 annually. They are a vital component of the global carbon cycle, without which the current climate situation would be considerably worse.
The vastness of forests is matched only by their diversity. This diversity means that there are few fixed rules that can be applied to forests as a whole. Retaining natural forests, restoring degraded forests and replanting areas previously lost is going to be vital to our ongoing efforts to address climate change and restrict biodiversity loss.
Despite these imperatives, substantial areas of forest continue to be lost and degraded globally every year. Numerous efforts have been established that have had local success, but the overall trend is alarming. From a climate mitigation perspective, the past two decades have been filled with talk and promises, but frustratingly has resulted in little action or success. While we rightly celebrate a few success stories, this focus can create a misleading impression that things have improved more than they have.
In this series of papers, we will summarize our decades of experience in carbon management within the land sector and outline our external policies on forests.