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'The Foresting of the West'

Deforestation remains a global challenge. A 2013 study for the European Commission found that, between 1990 and 2008, 53% of global forests have been cleared to produce agricultural commodities.

Yet the global picture, ironically, isn't the whole picture. In a large number of countries there has been incredible progress in reforesting. As this report from The Economist explains, many developed nations are investing in forests, recognising that they offer huge value in economic, social and environmental terms.

The map above shows the progress being made in forestry throughout most of Europe and Russia. In all but three nations, forest area is growing. 1.1 million cubic metres of new wood is added per day. There's a similar story in the USA, where the Southern region has more than doubled the standing stock in its working forests (which cover three times more land than the whole of the UK). That's great news for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

What this doesn't mean is that we can relax about deforestation. There is still work to be done to prevent the loss of forest land to agriculture, urbanisation and illegal logging.

The real lesson is about how these forests are achieving such positive growth. It's because they are economically valuable.

We do need to protect certain ecosystems that have special ecological roles. But in most cases, banning healthy market activity means that forests stay static and can even lead to illegal logging in the worst scenarios. Instead, we can support sustainable activities that create financial returns for forests, making them less vulnerable to conversion to agricultural or urban uses. That's how European, American, Australian, Russian and Canadian forests are achieving such impressive growth and how they and other forests around the world can do even more to remove damaging carbon from the atmosphere.

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