Ending Deforestation by 2030
On the backdrop, given in the introductory paragraph, more than 100 global leaders, on November 01, pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests – the COP26 climate summit’s first major deal. The countries who have signed the pledge – including Brazil, Canada, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, the UK and the Us – cover around 85% of the world’s forests.
The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use will cover forests totalling more than 33 million square kilometres (13 million square miles). Some of the funding will go to developing countries to restore damaged land, tackle wildfires and support indigenous communities.
The agreement vastly expands a similar commitment made by 40 countries as part of the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests and goes further than ever before in laying out the resources to reach that goal. Under the agreement, 12 countries including Britain have pledged to provide $12 billion of public funding between 2021 and 2025 to help developing countries, including in efforts to restore degraded land and tackle wildfires.
Governments of 28 countries also committed to remove deforestation from the global trade of food and other agricultural products such as palm oil, soya and cocoa.
These industries drive forest loss by cutting down trees to make space for animals to graze or crops to grow.
More than 30 of the world’s biggest financial companies – including Aviva, Schroders and Axa – have also promised to end investment in activities linked to deforestation.
Hopes and challenges ahead
There are reasons to be cheerful about the proposed plan to limit deforestation, specifically the scale of the funding, and the key countries that are supporting the pledge.
It is also very positive that it will try to reinforce the role of indigenous people in protecting their trees. Studies have shown that protecting the rights of native communities is one of the best ways of saving forested lands.
But there are significant challenges as well.
Many previous plans haven’t achieved their goals. In fact, deforestation has increased since a similar pledge was launched in 2014.
There are often disputes between donors and recipients – Norway suspended funding for an Amazon fund in 2019 in an argument with Brazil’s president.
There are also major questions over how a major financial pledge could be effectively policed.
How can funders verify that forests are actually being protected without spying from satellites or challenging national sovereignty in some way?
And question marks also hang over a key plank of the new plan, which is to try to remove the link to deforestation from consumer goods sold in developed countries.
One aspect is eating meat from animals, raised on imported soy grown on cleared lands. Will governments push companies and consumers to eat less meat to save the world’s most important forests?
The writer is a member of staff.