Deforestation impacts the Earth and its ecological systems, the indigenous people who live in affected areas, and the industries perpetrating forest loss. Skoll focuses on tropical forests, which have the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and not on other forested biomes, although we recognize the importance of preserving those ecosystems as well.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

A combination of deforestation and climate change can lead to a “tipping point,” through which a permanent shift in the landscape would cause not only a loss in biodiversity but a release of carbon to the atmosphere, which in turn would lead to irreversible climate change. Despite the initial economic benefits that come with deforestation for activities such as agriculture, the long term economic effects are likely to be negative. Damage to forests and related resources could halve living standards for the world's poor and reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050.ii

  • While in 1990 forests made up 31.6 percent of the word's land areas, this has changed to 30.6 percent in 2015. Some 129 million hectares of forest - an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa - have been lost over this time.iii
  • Deforestation in the Amazon dropped precipitously from 2004 to 2011 and is now trending in a narrow band ( 5,000 km2 per year in Brazil),iv suggesting that measures that were previously very effective (soy and beef industry moratoria on deforestation, new policies) have reached their limits and may need to be supplemented by new approaches.
Desired Equilibrium

Preservation of the Earth’s tropical forests through economically and environmentally sustainable land management by indigenous communities supported by market forces.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Supporting indigenous communities in securing their rights and sustainably managing forested land (ACT, Forest Trends, Gaia Amazonas, Telapak)
  • Informing decision-making through improved and transparent tropical forest data (Forest Trends, Global Witness, Imazon)
  • Engaging local and national governments to develop, strengthen, and implement anti-deforestation policies (ACT, Forest Trends, Gaia Amazonas, Global Witness, Imazon)
  • Creating economic incentives for private sector actors to conserve the environment (ACT, Ceres, Forest Trends, Imazon, Telapak)
Critical Geographies
5-year Gross Forest Loss (2010-2014)i

As defined by Mongabay (> 1 million hectares)
Brazil, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Myanmar, Madagascar