The world has lost a third of its forest since the last ice age, and an estimated 15 percent of global greenhouse gases still come from deforestation and forest degradation.
Now, a new pledge made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last month hopes to change that grim picture. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, signed by major forest nations, aims to reduce deforestation to zero by 2030. The commitment raised hopes that the world would see a new momentum to curb the devastating effects of deforestation.
“If we could reduce deforestation to zero, that would be an incredible achievement,” says Simon Lewis, a global change science researcher at the University of Leeds and University College London. “Both in terms of carbon […] and for biodiversity and conservation, as two-thirds of the world’s species are found in the world’s tropical forests.
But there are serious caveats to engagement as well, including the fact that similar statements have been made before, often without much success.
What is the new pledge?
This was announced at the COP in early November and signed by 141 countries — some 72 percent of nations — including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three of the four countries with the most tropical forest in 2020.
Countries committed to “work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030” while “achieving sustainable development and promoting inclusive rural transformation”. Importantly, he does not qualify this by only referring to “illegal” deforestation as many other commitments do, which means that he is trying to cover all deforestation, not just logging or land clearing in violation of the law. local laws.
The pledge is supported by $ 12 billion in public funds and $ 7.2 billion in private funding. Within that, $ 1.7 billion will go to support the land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and support their roles as protectors of forests.
However, Lewis says there is still ambiguity as to whether the commitment means “zero” deforestation or “net zero” deforestation. No deforestation would mean no loss of old-growth forests anywhere. But net zero deforestation means old-growth forests could still be cleared, as long as new forests were planted at the same rate. “The former is much better for carbon, and also much better for biodiversity,” explains Lewis.
What impact could this have?
It’s hard to overstate the effect of ending deforestation on everything from climate change and water security to wildlife and the well-being of indigenous communities.
a analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) found that ending forest loss by 2030 in all countries signing the pledge would prevent 33 million hectares of forest loss, an area roughly the size of Malaysia. It would also avoid emissions of 19 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), roughly double that of China’s annual emissions.