The forested surface of the Earth, which was estimated at 5 billion hectares at the beginning of the twentieth century now stands at less than 4 billion. Since the 1990s, 13 million hectares of tropical rainforest have disappeared every year throughout the world, which represents a reduction of 3 % per decade.
As Alain Karsenty reminds us here, deforestation, which has many and varied (economic, agricultural, demographic and cultural) causes, has serious consequences at both the local and the global levels. It endangers biodiversity, destroys soils and renders them infertile, affects the water-cycle and remains one of the main factors of global warming. Since forest soils and vegetation store significant quantities of carbon, their destruction represents a major source of CO2 emissions.
Successive policies have been implemented for conserving the forests and combatting deforestation since the 1980s, in an attempt to limit the loss of this ecosystem and damage to it. The outcomes, notes Alain Karsenty, have not been particularly successful. In this context, after describing these various global-level policies and the reasons for their lack of effectiveness, he raises the prospect of a new international regime “organized around the principle of the remunerated conservation of the tropical rainforests”, in which the credibility of states will be the crucial component. This is, he stresses, a fundamentally different regime, “insofar as its centre of gravity no longer lies in forest-management policies, but in the policies affecting the forests”.