When deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 29 percent last year after declining for many years previously, most everyone took note. Curbing deforestation had been a tragically unsolvable problem for every other country with a significant share of the world’s tropical rain forests.
But now, there’s new hope for all of the rainforests.
Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist and indigenous leaders from 21 countries joined forces this June to launch a massive global initiative to end deforestation.
Tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and contain roughly two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity on land, but economic developments—such as agricultural plantations, mines, and mega-dams—are destroying forested landscape in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Leaders unveiled the new initiative at a first-of-its-kind meeting in Oslo, Norway, and pledged to form an international, multi-faith rainforest alliance.
The two-day gathering, held in the presence of Norway’s King Harald V, marked the first time religious leaders from a broad spectrum of faiths agreed to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples and ask faith communities worldwide to stand up for rainforests and the people who live in them.
“We affirm that we are all caretakers of Earth’s rainforests, just as the forests care for us. We embrace the responsibility for ongoing action which that entails,” the leaders said in a joint statement.
The religious and indigenous leaders met with scientists and forestry and climate experts to develop goals and actions, along with milestones to mark the initiative’s progress. They expect to follow up with an action plan and a major event in 2018.