More than 120 heads of state agreed to reverse deforestation by 2030 at the COP26 climate summit, pledging €16.4 billion to fulfill their promise.
The world’s forests were a focal point of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where more than 120 world leaders vowed to end and reverse deforestation no later than 2030.
A total of 133 countries, including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, together representing 85 percent of the world’s woodland, have committed to the common cause of restoring the planet’s forests.
We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests. We will have a chance to end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian.
The forests covered by all the endorsers stretch more than 3.5 billion hectares and account for 90 percent of the total Earth’s forest land.
The leaders also agreed to allocate more than €16.4 billion in combined public and private funds to back their pledge.
“We, therefore, commit to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation,” the leaders said in a joint declaration.
“We urge all leaders to join forces in a sustainable land use transition,” the declaration further read. “This is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, including reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.”
According to the nonprofit World Resources Institute, the Earth’s forests, characterized as the “climate buffers,” have the ability to absorb around 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
However, the world’s woodlands are quickly declining, with 25.8 million hectares of forest, an area larger than the United Kingdom, lost in 2020 alone.
“We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests,” said United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the summit. “We will have a chance to end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian.”
Experts welcomed the leaders’ pledge, however, appeared skeptical about the outcome of the vow citing similar unsuccessful initiatives of the past.
“It is good news to have a political commitment to end deforestation from so many countries, and significant funding to move forward on that journey,” said Simon Lewis, an expert on climate and forests at University College London.
Lewis noted that the world “has been here before” with a similar declaration in New York in 2014, “which failed to slow deforestation at all.”
Others wondered whether the time remaining until 2030 is adequate to avert the loss of the world’s forests.
“We’re facing a climate emergency, so giving ourselves another 10 years to address this problem doesn’t quite seem consistent with that,” said Nigel Sizer, an activist and former president of the Rainforest Alliance.
“But maybe this is realistic and the best that they [the leaders] can achieve,” he added.