New Global Forest Watch Report 2023

Encouraging decrease in loss of tropical rainforests, but pressure continues

Deforestation of tropical rainforests decreased in 2023, but the gain was offset by increased deforestation globally, and rainforest nearly as big as Switzerland was lost. The world is not on track to halt deforestation by 2030. Rainforest Foundation Norway calls for increased efforts to meet this target.

DEFORESTATION: Man-made forest fire in the Brazilian Amazon in 2022. Brazil managed to reduce deforestation by 36% in 2023, but is still the country where most rainforest is lost. Photo: Edmar Barros

By Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Loss of tropical rainforests decreased by 9 % in 2023 compared to 2022, according to the Global Forest Watch report released on Thursday 4 April.

The decline was greatest in Brazil and Colombia, where governments have stepped up efforts to combat deforestation.

RFN analysis of the Global Forest Watch 2023 report

Anders Krogh, Significance of the Rainforest Special Adviser at Rainforest Foundation Norway, offers this analysis of the findings in the report:

Portrait photo of a man.

Anders Krogh, Significance of the Rainforest Special Adviser at Rainforest Foundation Norway. Photo: RFN

"Although there was a 9 % decrease in global deforestation of tropical rainforests in 2023, there are several negative trends that are worrying, and the deforestation level is still at a very high level. The 2023 global deforestation level was still higher than in any year between 2002 and 2015.

Brazil and Colombia were responsible for almost all of the reductions in tropical rainforest deforestation in 2023. If it had not been for these two countries, we would have had a relatively sharp increase in deforestation. Most other major rainforest countries had an increase in deforestation, including Indonesia, DRC and Peru.

Brazil had a 36 % decrease in deforestation, which is good, but it is still at a relatively high level. Colombia is the best case with a 48 % decrease, and with deforestation levels now quite low."

Ten football pitches a minute

The tropical rainforest is still disappearing at an alarming rate. 37.000 square kilometers of tropical primary forest was lost in 2023, according to the Global Forest Watch report. That's an area nearly as big as Switzerland.

"We lost around ten football pitches of tropical forest per minute last year. This is a wake-up call for all of us, but it's inspiring to see that important rainforest countries like Brazil and Colombia are moving in the right direction. The rainforest is a treasure trove of plants and animals that must be protected in order to solve the natural crisis. These new figures should therefore be a call to action to politicians and companies that we must do far more to protect this important ecosystem. We can and must stop the destruction of rainforests in the next few years."

Toerris Jaeger, executive director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Two steps forward, two steps back

At the same time, major forest fires in Canada and agricultural expansion in other countries led to global deforestation rates increasing by a total of 3.2 % last year.

"The world took two steps forward and two steps back," says Mikaela Weisse, Director of Global Forest Watch, in a press statement.

140 countries committed themselves to halting deforestation by 2030 at the UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2021. Additionally, 197 countries agreed to preserving 30 per cent of nature by 2030 at the UN nature summit in Montreal in 2022. These goals have now become even more challenging to reach, according to the Global Forest Watch report.

Key facts from the report:

  • The decline in tropical rainforest deforestation was greatest in Brazil and Colombia. Brazil lost 28.000 square kilometers of forest last year, 36 % less than in 2022. In Colombia, the improvement was even greater, with a 48 % reduction in deforestation.
  • Record forest fires in Canada and expanding agriculture elsewhere offset the decline in tropical primary forest loss, with global deforestation increasing by 3.2 % in 2023.
  • According to researchers at Global Forest Watch, large areas of tropical rainforest is still disappearing. Last year, as much as 37,000 square kilometers were lost, an area nearly as big as Switzerland.
  • The report shows that Brazil, Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the countries that lost the most tropical rainforest in 2023.
  • Last year's loss of tropical rainforest caused greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to half of the US annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Crucial for climate and nature

Large, continuous and intact forests are crucial for climate regulation, production and distribution of precipitation, maintaining biodiversity and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The world's tropical rainforests are home to up to 80% of terrestrial animal and plant species, and they absorb at least 1,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to Norway's total greenhouse gas emissions spanning 20,000 years.

Global Forest Watch is a project organised by the US-based non-profit World Resources Institute. The project uses satellite data to monitor deforestation and publishes an annual report on developments. Researchers from the University of Maryland are responsible for most of the data collection.

Anders Haug Larsen

International Advocacy Director
(+47) 932 17 626