World leaders vow new drive to save forests

Published November 3, 2021
Members of the Red Rebel Brigade — an international performance activist troupe — demonstrate outside the perimeter fence of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, on Tuesday.—AFP
Members of the Red Rebel Brigade — an international performance activist troupe — demonstrate outside the perimeter fence of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, on Tuesday.—AFP

GLASGOW: World leaders on Tuesday issued a multibillion-dollar pledge to end deforestation by 2030, a promise met with scepticism by environmental groups who say more urgent action is needed to save the planet’s lungs.

According to summit hosts the British government, the pledge is backed by almost $20 billion in public and private funding and is endorsed by more than 100 leaders representing over 85 per cent of the world’s forests, including the Amazon rainforest, Canada’s northern boreal forest and the Congo Basin rainforest.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the agreement on deforestation was pivotal to the overarching goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius — the most ambitious Paris Agreement target.

“Climate change and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin,” Johnson said on Tuesday.

“We can’t deal with the devastating loss of habitat and species without tackling climate change and we can’t tackle climate change without protecting our natural environment and respecting the rights of indigenous people.

“So protecting our forests is not only the right course of action to tackle climate change, but the right course for a more prosperous future for us all,” he said. Signatories include Brazil and Russia, which have been singled out for accelerating deforestation in their territories, as well as the United States, China, Australia and France.

The forests pact was the first of two anticipated announcements in Glasgow on Tuesday, with governments set to unveil a global agreement to reduce emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — by 30 per cent this decade. A senior US administration official told AFP that 90 countries including “half of the top 30 major methane emitters” had signed up to the pledge.

The summit pact to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 encompasses promises to secure the rights of indigenous peoples, and recognise their role as forest guardians.

While Johnson described the pledge as unprecedented, a UN climate gathering in New York in 2014 issued a similar declaration.

That deal saw more than 200 countries, companies and indigenous groups promise to halve the rate of deforestation by 2020, and end it by 2030.

However, an assessment earlier this year found that seven years on from the pact, virtually no government was on course to fulfil their responsibilities.

Trees continue to be cut down on an industrial scale, not least in the Amazon under the far-right government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Deforestation in Brazil surged in 2020, leading to a 9.5-per cent increase in its emissions.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2021

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