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More than 100 global leaders late on Monday pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion US in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests.
The joint statement at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow was backed by the leaders of countries including Brazil, Indonesia and Congo, which collectively account for 85 per cent of the world’s forests.
The Conference of Parties (COP) meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the early 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.
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The new Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use will cover forests totalling more than 33.6 million square kilometres, according to a statement from the U.K. prime minister’s office on behalf of the leaders.
“We will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian,” said British leader Boris Johnson, calling it an unprecedented agreement.
$1.7B for Indigenous Peoples
Five countries, including Britain and the United States, and a group of global charities also pledged to provide $1.7 billion in financing to support Indigenous Peoples’ conservation of forests and to strengthen their land rights. They did not specify which communities would get the funding.
Environmentalists say that Indigenous communities are the best protectors of the forest, often against violent encroachment of loggers and land grabbers.
Forests absorb roughly 30 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute. The forests take the emissions out of the atmosphere and prevent them from warming the climate.
Yet this natural climate buffer is rapidly disappearing. The world lost 258,000 square kilometres of forest in 2020, according to WRI’s deforestation tracking initiative Global Forest Watch. That is an area larger than the United Kingdom.
Monday’s 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 US of public funding between 2021 and 2025 to help developing countries, including in efforts to restore degraded land and tackle wildfires.
At least a further $7.2 billion would be provided by more than 30 private sector investors including Aviva, Schroders and AXA. The investors, representing $8.7 trillion in assets under management, also pledged to stop investing in activities linked to deforestation by 2025.
COP26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say forests and so-called nature-based solutions will be vital to reaching that goal.