Representatives from more than 60 countries signed postcards addressed to WWF International’s director-general James Leape during the ninth Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany.

The cards pledged to work with WWF to stop 13m hectares a year – or 26 football fields a minute – of forests being lost.

The organisation is pressing for countries in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to adopt a target of zero net deforestation by 2020.

Deforestation, particularly in the tropics, is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, generating between 15% and 20% of global carbon emissions.

About 1.6bn people worldwide also depend on forests for their livelihoods, with 60m indigenous people depending on forests for their subsistence.

CBD executive secretary Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf said: “We need to reverse the trend in forest loss and stop further erosion of the world’s biodiversity, both for nature and people’s sakes.

“This initiative is welcome news for the biodiversity family gathered here in Bonn, to expedite the implementation of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“It is indeed a timely initiative, and I applaud WWF for its unique contribution for protecting life on Earth.”

Mr Leape said: “WWF is very pleased that governments are rising to the challenge of working towards zero net deforestation by 2020.”

He added: “Governments have to act now or we will lose even more the forests that are life’s basic building blocks, and that provide essential services to humanity.”

WWF acknowledged that the target was ambitious, but said it gives governments enough time to take action and complements the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Last week, timber company Congolaise Industrielle des Bois announced that it had created the largest tract of certified tropical forest in the world, in the Congo Basin in Africa.

The company worked with the Geneva-based charity Tropical Forest Trust to make its activities more sustainable and gain certification from the Forest Stewardship Council.

Kate Martin

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