It may seem remote but deforestation affects us all. It destroys some of the most beautiful places in the world, the last remaining original pristine forests and their biological diversity. It threatens the livelihoods of millions of people, some of them among the world’s poorest. Globally, it contributes over 20 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector.
The World Bank estimates up to US$23 billion worth of wood is illegally cut each year. This results in lost revenue of US$10 billion. As many of these primal forests are in the developing world, it robs these societies of precious revenue, thwarting development goals and keeping people in poverty. If we want to end poverty and protect the environment, such illegal logging needs to be curbed.
Given that logs are large and need infrastructure to be cut, transported and sold, illegal logging can only survive with the connivance of many people. Thus, corruption plays a key role. Such corruption can be high-level: politicians can decide who gets land concessions, give contracts to friends and relatives, or allow logging without appropriate permits. But even low-level officers can turn a blind eye to trees being cut, or ignore illegal transport.
Corruption also undermines conservation by siphoning off funds meant to protect our forests. Although still under development, there are concerns that the US$29-33 billion per year projected to flow to protect forests could be skimmed by the same corrupt actors. The solution?