World leaders are set to end the era of deforestation and land degradation by 2030 in a huge new announcement at COP26.
More than 100 leaders are ready to commit to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 at the COP26 Forests & Land Use event today.
Among those who will agree to the commitments are Canada, the US, Australia, Russia, China, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of the countries ready to make the pledge represent over 85 percent of the world’s forests, encompassing a total area of over 33 million square kilometers (13 million square miles) of forest.
World leaders representing 75 percent of global trade in commodities that can severely threaten forests – such as palm oil, cocoa, and soya – will also sign up to a new Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Statement. This will aim to promote sustainable trade and reduce pressure on forests by supporting small farmers and improving the transparency of supply chains.
The pledge is backed by $19.2 billion in public and private funding. This money will be used to support reforestation efforts in developing countries through restoring degraded land, combating wildfires, and protecting the rights of indigenous communities. Thirty banks and financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion of global assets have also agreed to stop investing in activities linked to deforestation.
The deforestation and the degradation of the world's rainforests have become a potent symbol of humanity’s disregard for their natural environment. In recent years, scientists have seen how human activity is pushing the Amazon towards a grim tipping point, with significant parts of the world's largest tropical rainforest now emitting more carbon than it absorbs. Other great forests of the world, including the Congo rainforest and the Southeast Asian forests, are also under threat from industrial logging and conversion for large-scale agriculture. Not only does this pose an existential threat to the rich biodiversity that inhabits these ecosystems, but also the 1.3 billion people who rely on forests to survive.
The push to save the planet’s forests could also help the wider problem of climate change in the longer term since 23 percent of global greenhouse emissions come from logging, deforestation, and industrial agriculture.
Not everyone felt the pledge was ambitious enough, however. Greenpeace criticized the commitment for effectively allowing another decade of deforestation. They also noted that the commitment is not binding, meaning there's no promise some countries will keep their end of the deal, and it failed to take action to reduce demand for meat and dairy, a major driver of land degradation and climate change.
“Until we put a stop to the expansion of industrial agriculture, start moving towards plant-based diets and reduce the amount of industrial meat and dairy we consume, Indigenous People’s rights will continue to be threatened and nature will continue to be destroyed, rather than given the opportunity to restore and rebound," Anna Jones, Greenpeace UK Head of Forests, said in a statement.
“There’s a very good reason [Brazilian president] Bolsonaro felt comfortable signing on to this new deal. It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding. Meanwhile, the Amazon is already on the brink and can’t survive years more deforestation. Indigenous Peoples are calling for 80% of the Amazon to be protected by 2025, and they’re right, that’s what’s needed. The climate and the natural world can’t afford this deal," added Greenpeace Brazil executive director Carolina Pasquali.