The scale of deforestation in Africa is both unprecedented and increasing. According to a report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the continent lost 3.94 million hectares of forest area each year between 2010 and 2020, compared with 3.4 million each year in the previous decade. This is more than any other region in the world since 2010, with Europe, Asia and Oceania experiencing a net increase in forest cover over the same period, while South America halved its net forest losses from 5.2 million hectares between 2000 and 2010 to 2.6 million hectares between 2010 and 2020. With central and northern America just dropping into a net loss for the 2010-2020 period, Africa is a clear laggard in the global direction of travel. Not only does this elimination of forest area severely hamper global efforts to combat climate change, with a significant reduction in tree life to take out carbon from the atmosphere, it can also exacerbate the effects of climate change we are already beginning to see in a part of the world most susceptible to it.  

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Joe Walsh is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg. He writes about the environment, energy and the green economy as well as politics and society for British publications, including Environmental Finance, the New Statesman and The New European.