Forests should be considered one of the most important resources in countering the negative effects of climate change. For example, a very large proportion of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, around a third, is captured by forests each year. In this way, they play a critical role in achieving the goal of limiting future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the pre-industrial period as determined by the Paris Agreement. Forests also host 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and are of great importance in regulating ecosystems and preserving this rich biological wealth.
In addition to all these points, forests, which support the livelihoods of many people, are an essential tool in achieving sustainable development goals. This is because approximately 1.6 billion people, who constitute a quarter of the world's population and are mostly from poor communities, depend on forests for their livelihoods. By protecting forests and supporting clean water resources, healthy soil structures and land formations, it is possible to contribute to the global economy of approximately $75 billion to $100 billion per year in the context of goods and services.
Recently, at an increasing rate and to a growing extent, we have begun to lose our forests, which are of such great importance for the future of our planet. The latest published data indicates that 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) of forest are destroyed every year. In other words, we are losing an area the size of a football field by the second.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) paints another scary picture. In the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the term primary forest is used to describe naturally occurring forests where little or no impact from human activities has been observed. In the research, it was also shared that the greenhouse gas emissions released from primary forest loss in total in 2020 exceeded the annual carbon dioxide rate produced by 570 million cars. This figure is more than double the number of cars on U.S. highways.
On the other hand, about a quarter of global emissions originate from the land sector, which is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the energy sector, and about half of these emissions are due to deforestation and land degradation. As a matter of fact, the conversion of forests to agricultural land contributes to climate change and this transformation harms natural habitats and biodiversity. This situation not only causes the extinction of countless living species but also negatively affects the people who make a living from the forests and the cultural heritage associated with the forest areas, leaving behind destruction that is very difficult to repair.
Forests are one of the common solutions to the two most serious problems facing humankind, climate change and loss of biodiversity. Thanks to the steps to be taken in the field of forestry, it is possible to address both goals on the path of sustainable development simultaneously.
After the coronavirus pandemic, it is absolutely necessary to take measures to protect forests within the framework of economic revitalization policies. After the pandemic, countries have started to make efforts to move away from unsustainable growth models and to include policy tools on issues that are important for public health, especially health and the environment, into their existing policy mixes.
In this context, when it comes to the importance of forests and the serious losses suffered by all in the fight against climate change, it will be of great benefit to attach importance to policies that will protect forested areas, establish their sustainable management and restore lost areas. In this respect, providing the necessary incentives and financial mechanisms through international cooperation will support achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Research on the subject reveals that it is possible to restore approximately 2 billion hectares of degraded land on a global scale. Therefore, increasing and protecting forests stands before us as a fundamental solution to climate change. If the restoration in question is carried out successfully, it is expected to contribute more than one-third of the targeted reduction amount by 2030. For example, the "Bonn Challenge" initiative, which was launched in 2011 by the German government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with the goal of restoring 350 million hectares of land by 2030, has already exceeded 150 million hectares. According to the calculations, it is estimated that reaching the aforementioned target in 2030 will result in a reduction of 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.
The European Union, on the other hand, has committed to planting 3 billion trees in addition to its existing tree stock by 2030, under the European Green Deal, which it sees as the fundamental building block in the fight against climate change. This commitment aims to increase forest and tree coverage in the EU, strengthen and mitigate the forests' resilience and their role in reversing biodiversity loss, and help adapt to climate change. In its commitment, the EU has also set targets for rigorously protecting primary and old-growth forests, ensuring sustainable management of forests and improving forest monitoring.
At the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, held in Glasgow in 2021 to take a step towards the protection of forests on a global scale, the importance of forests in combating climate change was emphasized and the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use was announced. Based on this declaration, 133 signatory countries announced that they will cooperate to stop forest loss and land degradation, pledging to restore degraded lands by 2030.
COP15, which will be held in Kunming, China in the coming months, will be another milestone in the context of forest protection. Preventing and reversing biodiversity loss at the margin of this meeting will require maintaining and furthering the level of perseverance at the climate summit. Therefore, as mentioned above, it will not be a surprise to expect studies to be carried out to draw a framework in which the role of forests is taken into account.
Turkey, upon announcing that it is a party to the Paris Agreement, has asserted the importance it attaches to forests in front of the whole world as one of the 133 countries party to the declaration announced on the margins of COP26, which is the first of the conferences it attended. On the other hand, Turkey, with a forest area of 20 million hectares in 1973, 21 million hectares in 2005 and 22 million hectares in 2015, currently has more than 22 million hectares of forest assets and aims to increase this amount to 29 million hectares by 2023. Thanks to the correct policies having been implemented in the context of the protection of forests, our country ranks sixth among the countries that have increased their forest assets the most in the last 10 years.
Along with these successful works and our determination, our forests will undoubtedly play a major role in reaching the net-zero emission target of 2053, which has been pointed out by our president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. With the help of all our people to protect and replenish the forests, with the many initiatives such as the "Breath for the Future" campaign and National Reforestation Day celebrated on Nov. 11 every year, our struggle as a country will continue and we will continue to serve as a source of inspiration to all countries in the future as we have done thus far.