The first major deal was struck at the COP26 climate summit on Tuesday morning as more than 100 world leaders have made a promise to end and reverse the effects of deforestation by 2030.
The deforestation commitment includes almost £14bn of private and public funds to tackle human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions derive from deforestation. Land clearing by humans and the depletion of forests contributes to global climate change as trees absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide, the gas that is largely responsible for the warming of the climate. The world’s forests are facing destruction for agricultural products, for example, palm oil, a product found in everything from cosmetics to food, soy and beef.
Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US and the UK, are among the countries who have signed the agreement (whose countries are notably home to around 85% of the world’s forests). Key signatures on the deal included Indonesia, Russia and Brazil.
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil. The demand for and production of palm oil is powering mass tree destruction and displacing indigenous people. More than a fifth of the world’s trees are situated in Russia’s natural forests, capturing more than 1.5bn tonnes of carbon annually, thus making their commitment to the pledge crucial. The Amazon rainforest in Brazil has been subject to large stretches of deforestation in recent years, which is something that must be stopped to preserve habitats and help reduce the effects of climate change.
“More than a fifth of the world’s trees are situated in Russia’s natural forests, thus making their commitment to the pledge crucial.”
Some of the funding that will be provided to this commitment will go to developing countries to improve and restore damaged land, fight against wildfires, and provide support to indigenous communities. A fund of £1.1bn will also be created to preserve and protect the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rainforest.
Companies and businesses also play an important part in ensuring that aims and terms of the agreement are met and the situation improves. With food production contributing to both deforestation and climate change, in general, governments from 28 countries have also promised to remove all forms of deforestation from the global trade of food and agricultural products. Food industries and companies are often at the forefront of deforestation issues as land is cleared to make space for specific crops or grazing. Additionally, more than 30 of the world’s biggest financial companies have contributed to the pledge to end investment in activities that are connected to issues surrounding deforestation.
“Food industries and companies are often at the forefront of deforestation issues as land is cleared to make space for specific crops or grazing.”
The agreement comes as a welcomed move by experts and climate change protesters as the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014 somewhat failed. It aimed to half deforestation by 2020 and seize it completely by 2030. However, the agreement was voluntary and legally non-binding with only 40 governments eventually signing up, excluding key countries and large and powerful governments, such as Brazil and Russia. Despite the past targets, very little to no progress has been made regarding deforestation, with it still continuing at an alarming rate.
The failure of the previous agreement reignites the spark to do better and deliver on the commitments that were made on Tuesday. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is at the centre of COP26 in Glasgow as the host country leader, commented on the importance of preserving our forests and humanity working with nature rather than against it. Featuring more leaders than ever before, this pledge was referred to as a “landmark” commitment.
There is still a long battle ahead to reduce deforestation and its global effects. Right now, all we have is words in what is a promising start to tackling this issue, but now we need actions if change is going to happen.