Forests are home to around 80% of the world’s land biodiversity including many varieties of trees, plants, animals, birds, insects and fungi working together in complex ecosystems.

Forests cover a third of global land area. Around half of this is relatively intact, and over a third is primary forest, with no visible sign of human activity and where ecological processes have been left undisturbed.

How do forests help stop climate change?

Forests around the world also help to stabilise the climate. They do this by absorbing almost one-third of the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels every year – around 2.6 billion tonnes.

Because forests also store carbon, deforestation releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Why are forests being destroyed?

The world’s tropical forests are most often cut down or burned to make way for industrial food and cosmetics production.

In the case of the Amazon rainforest and other South American forests, fires are started by farmers to clear land to rear cattle for meat and dairy, or to grow soya for animal feed. So much deforestation happens in this way in South America that it is the main cause of deforestation worldwide.

In the tropical rainforests of Indonesia and the Congo, palm oil plantations are a key cause of deforestation. And in the Great Northern Forest, which stores more carbon than all the tropical forests in the world, logging companies fell trees for products like tissue paper.

Protecting forests is important for defending human rights too. All across the world, people that live within forests rely on them for shelter, food, energy, medicine, and income. Indigenous Peoples particularly depend on forests – and indigenous lands include some of the best-protected and most biodiverse regions in the world.

Since 1990, it is estimated that 420 million hectares of forest have been destroyed. The rate of deforestation slowed between 2015 and 2020, at an average of 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year since 1990.

News and features

Meat, soya, fire and disease: How the Amazon rainforest is breaking down

Forests around the world hold the key to solving climate change – but the Amazon and its people are more under threat than ever. The key culprit is industrial meat.

For Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples, protecting nature is a matter of life and death

Indigenous Peoples are on the frontlines of the climate crisis – and are some of the best defenders against it. But they are threatened with violence and structural, institutionalised racism. Their lands are destroyed by industry and they are killed with alarming regularity across the world – particularly in Brazil.

5 problems with ‘sustainable’ palm oil

Palm oil is used in all sorts of everyday products from shampoo to chocolate, but it’s been disastrous for the world’s forests. Here are five not-so-fun facts about ‘certified sustainable’ palm oil, which is often anything but.

7 reasons why meat is bad for the environment

From climate change to forest fires to human rights abuses, the global industrial meat industry leaves a trail of destruction all over the world. Millions of people's lives depend on a dramatic reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy. And it’s not just red meat that’s the problem.

Take action for forests

Corporate monsters are destroying the forest home of the jaguar to produce meat on a huge scale. If we lose the world’s forests like the Amazon, we lose precious wildlife and the home of many Indigenous Peoples. We also lose the fight against climate change - putting us all in danger. Some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets and fast food chains including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC are fuelling the problem. Tell these companies to stop buying from forest destroyers.

Sign the petition