Forests cover one third of the earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests feed our rivers and are essential to supplying the water for nearly 50% of our largest cities, including New York, Jakarta and Caracas. They help to regulate the often devastating impact of storms and floods.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate -- 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, equal to the size of Portugal.
But it's not too late to transform business as usual into a future where forests are at the heart of our sustainable development and green economies. An investment of US$30 billion fighting deforestation could provide a return of US$2.5 trillion in saved products and services. Furthermore, targeted investments in forestry could generate up to millions of jobs around the world. Already, many leaders are glimpsing the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets, but for forest transformation to happen, forests need to become a universal political priority.