The United Nations vowed to end the deforestation of the Earth by the year 2030, as part of the climate summit in New York City.
The UN climate Summit began in New York on Sept. 23, and runs for a week. The event was planned as an unofficial show of support for an extensive international agreement that will be negotiated in Paris during 2015.
Dozens of nations, along with businesses and indigenous groups agreed to slow the loss of forests in just six years, followed by the end of deforestation ten years later.
The New York Declaration on Forests claims that such a dramatic change in woodland loss could absorb 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon emissions each year. This is roughly the same benefit that would be seen if all the cars in the world were eliminated. Around 865 million acres of forests and croplands could be saved, if nations adhere to the non-binding contract. This is about the size of the nation of India.
Trees absorb large amounts of carbon, which is then released when they are burned, in processes like slash-and-burn agriculture. These releases are responsible for around eight percent of the carbon released into the atmosphere.
"Forests are essential to our future. More than 1.6 billion people depend on them for food, water, fuel, medicines, traditional cultures and livelihoods. Forests also support up to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and play a vital role in safeguarding the climate by naturally sequestering carbon. The conversion of forests for the production of commodities - such as soy, palm oil, beef and paper - accounts for roughly half of global deforestation," the report stated.
The environmental declaration was supported by some of the world's largest producers of palm oil, including Cargill, Wilmar, and Golden Agri-Resources. The pledge to end deforestation in the production of these crops account for 60 percent of the total carbon savings.
A total of 26 governors from Peru and Liberia agreed to reduce deforestation in their provinces by 80 percent below current levels.
Supporters hope their declaration will help the United Nations meet its goal of limiting global warming to just 3.6 degrees over pre-industrial levels by the year 2030. Much of the global emissions of carbon dioxide come from China, which emits more of the gas than the United States and the European Union combined.
Not all environmentalists are happy with the new agreement, including Greenpeace, which refused to sign the resolution.
"We need strong laws to protect forests and people, as well as better enforcement of existing laws. The New York Declaration is missing ambitious targets and tangible actions... While we are celebrating announcements on paper today, forests and forest peoples are facing imminent threats that must be averted if we want the Declaration to become reality," Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, said.