En-ROADS User Guide

Deforestation and Food🔗

Decrease or increase the amount of forests and make changes to global food and agriculture choices. The main driver of deforestation is the need for cropland, which results in the permanent removal of forests. If the demand for additional cropland is avoided as a result of less food from animals, less food waste, or better crop yield then deforestation can be significantly reduced. Forest degradation is the temporary loss of forests due to harvesting for wood products or bioenergy.


  • Government policy to preserve forested land and place restrictions on industries such as soybean and/or palm oil.
  • Shifting from animal-based diets to more vegetarian and vegan diets.
  • Improved supply chains that result in less food waste.
  • Increased support for Indigenous land rights.
  • Public support and campaigns to encourage land preservation.

Big Messages🔗

  • Reducing deforestation is part of a multi-pronged effort to address climate change. However, deforestation emissions are overshadowed by the enormous amount of carbon dioxide released through fossil fuel combustion.
  • Protecting forests is helpful for many reasons other than climate action, including biodiversity conservation and protection of Indigenous peoples' lands.

Key Dynamics🔗

  • Highly reducing deforestation emissions reduces temperature less than most people would estimate. View the “Greenhouse Gas Net Emissions by Gas – Area” graph to see the role of land use, land use change, and forestry relative to all the other sources of emissions.
  • As consumption grows, food waste and animal-based food demand increase the amount of cropland needed, which drives more deforestation.
  • Drivers of forest degradation also include logging and harvesting forests for products like wood bioenergy (e.g., firewood and wood pellets), lumber, and paper products.
  • Reducing deforestation and forest degradation reduces the net emissions from the land use sector. There is more carbon removal capacity from the forests if they are left to grow, and there are less gross emissions from carbon taken from forests through logging and harvesting.

Potential Co-Benefits of Decreasing Deforestation🔗

  • Diets that include more plants have been shown to be healthier for individuals and have less impact on ecosystems.
  • Forests protect biodiversity and provide ecosystem services and food sources.
  • Trees reduce erosion and prevent soil loss, which can negatively impact water quality downstream.
  • Forests provide livelihoods for people (e.g., small-scale resource gathering and sustainable forestry) that can be lost when land is shifted to other uses.

Equity Considerations🔗

  • Forest preservation efforts have sometimes restricted the land access of Indigenous people who have lived sustainably on the land for generations. Policies should be created with local stakeholder engagement.1 2
  • Many cultural values are attached to certain foods, meaning a change to more plant-based diets could require a large societal shift.

Slider Settings🔗

highly reduced moderately reduced status quo increased
Percent per year reduction or increase -10% to -4% -4% to -1% -1% to 0% 0% to +1%

Model Structure🔗

This sector tracks multiple different types of land to assess the impacts of forest gain, loss, and degradation, and the associated land use, land use change, and forestry greenhouse gas emissions. The key aspects are:

FAQs and Other Resources🔗

Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.


[1]: Salopek, P. (2019, May 16). Millions of indigenous people face eviction from their forest homes. National Geographic.

[2]: De Sam Lazaro, F. & Hartman, S. C. (2021, October 21). Uganda’s Batwa tribe, considered conservation refugees, see little government support. PBS NewsHour.

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