Another decade of forest destruction say campaigners over Cop26 ‘pledge’

The first major leader’s announcement from COP26 pledging to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 has been criticised by campaigners who say it doesn’t go far enough and question if even that will be honoured.

More than 100 world leaders representing over 85% of the world’s forests pledged they will commit to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. £8.75 billion of public funds will be committed to protect and restore forests, alongside £5.3 billion of private investment.

They said the announcements are part of “an unprecedented package of economic and political commitments to end deforestation worldwide”.

But Greenpeace Brazil executive director Carolina Pasquali said: “There’s a very good reason 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.”

They say the ‘new’ deal in effect replaces the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, which Brazil failed to sign.

That declaration in 2014 included a commitment that governments halve forest loss by 2020 and support the corporate sector to end deforestation in supply chains by 2020.

Greenpeace say the rate of natural forest loss has dramatically increased in recent years, adding “The new announcements on supply chains today appear to lack teeth and are unlikely to reverse the years of corporate failure on this issue. ” 

Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 9.5% in 2020, driven by Amazon destruction – the result say Greenpeace of deliberate policy choices by the Bolsonaro government. Greenpeace warned that there is “little chance” he would abide by the new deal.

Greenpeace UK Head of Forests Anna Jones said: “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.”  

Today also saw the announcement of new money for countries with significant forested areas – including in Brazil and the Congo basin.

She said:“The sums being brought forward are a tiny fraction of what is required to protect nature globally. Given the history of many of these governments disrespecting or attacking Indigenous Rights and destroying forests, they have a long way to go to provide assurance that these funds won’t simply line the pockets of forest destroyers.

“Funds being committed by governments under the Global Forest Finance Pledge appear to be coming from their aid budgets, so it is unclear whether it’s actually new cash at all. And there are no guarantees that private sector donations won’t simply be used as offsets for direct emission reductions.” 

A moratorium on new logging concessions was lifted by the DRC government in July, and campaigners are concerned that the offer of new money will not be contingent on the ban being reinstated.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace Africa said: “The lifting of the moratorium imperils an area of tropical forest the size of France, threatens indigenous and local communities and risks future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases that can cause pandemics. With so much at stake, any new money should only be offered to the DRC government if the ban on new logging concessions is restored.”    

But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the deal and said: “Today, at COP26, leaders have signed a landmark agreement to protect and restore the earth’s forests.

“These great teeming ecosystems – these cathedrals of nature – are the lungs of our planet. Forests support communities, livelihoods and food supply, and absorb the carbon we pump into the atmosphere.

“They are essential to our very survival.

“With today’s unprecedented pledges, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian.

President of Colombia Iván Duque said: “Colombia is proud to endorse the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. The Declaration is a landmark commitment from countries to work together to end deforestation and all land degradation within the next decade. 

“Never before have so many leaders, from all regions, representing all types of forests, joined forces in this way and Colombia is committed to playing its part. We will enshrine in law a commitment to net-zero deforestation by 2030 – one of the most ambitious commitments in Latin America – and to protecting 30% of our land and ocean resources by 2030.

“Now we must all work in partnership with businesses, the finance sector, smallholder farmers, Indigenous Peoples and local communities to create the conditions for forest-positive economies to grow and thrive.”

They were joined by President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, who said: “Indonesia is blessed as the most carbon rich country in the world on vast rainforests, mangroves, oceans and peatlands. We are committed to protecting these critical carbon sinks and our natural capital for future generations.

“We call on all countries to support sustainable development paths that strengthen the livelihoods of communities – especially indigenous, women and smallholders.”

The UK said it will commit £1.5bn over five years to support the forests pledge, including £350m for tropical forests in Indonesia, and £200m for the LEAF Coalition and £200m, alongside 11 other donors, as part of a new £1.1 billion fund to protect the Congo Basin. The area is home to the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world which is threatened by industrial logging, mining and agriculture.

Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Store said: “We must work for an improved global framework for climate investments. To “keep 1.5 degrees alive” we have to halt forest loss this decade. Tropical forest countries need more international support and incentives to transform their land use policies.

“Norway will continue and further develop its International Climate and Forest Initiative at high levels until 2030, and we’re excited to be part of a growing coalition of donors and companies mobilising to reduce deforestation and enable a just rural transition. I am particularly pleased that we are joining forces to secure Indigenous Peoples’ rights and increase the recognition of their role as forest guardians.” 

Read more:

Policy paper: COP26: World leaders summit on ‘Action on forests and land use’, 2 November 2021

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