Countries vow to halt deforestation by 2030 at climate summit

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, second from left, and U.S. President Joe Biden, right, attend a session on Action on Forests and Land Use
Associated Press/Paul Ellis

The leaders of more than 100 countries reached an agreement to stop and reverse deforestation by the year 2030 at a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday.

The countries represent more than 85 percent of the globe’s forests, according to the British government, which announced the agreement. The pledge is backed by $19 billion in public and private funds and includes nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, the United States, China and Russia.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the agreement in remarks kicking off a meeting on forests and land use at the COP26 summit, saying it would help the international community limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius into the 2030s.

“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,” Johnson said.

“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,” he added.

Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air, making them a key tool in limiting global warming, but forests have been ravaged across the globe to allow for commodity agriculture, which is the largest driver of deforestation.

President Biden in his own brief remarks said the U.S. would “help the world deliver on our shared goal of halting natural forest loss and restoring at least an additional 200 million hectares of forest and other ecosystems by the year 2030.”

Biden said his administration would ask Congress to put $9 billion toward conserving forests through 2030 and would work with the private sector as well as local communities most affected by deforestation.

“Preserving forests and other ecosystems can and should play an important role in meeting our ambitious climate goals as part of the net-zero emissions strategy we all have, and the United States is going to lead by our example at home and support other forested nations and developing countries in setting and achieving ambitious action to conserve and restore these carbon sinks,” Biden said.

The White House also unveiled a 25-page, four-point plan to conserve global forests on Tuesday morning ahead of the meeting.

The British government said that it has received a commitment from 12 countries for public financing totaling $12 billion between 2021 and 2025 as well as a commitment for $7.2 billion in private-sector funding. The leaders of more than 30 financial institutions have also made commitments to “eliminate investment in activities linked to deforestation,” according to the United Kingdom’s announcement.

Environmentalists are likely to look at the new agreement skeptically, however. A similar pact was reached in 2014 to halve deforestation by 2020, but the practice has instead accelerated in areas of the world.

“Whether this is cause for celebration will depend on who will sign on to it, how ambitious its goals are, whether it centers human rights as a pillar for preserving forests, its accountability systems, and whether it signals increased ambition from previous initiatives,” Luciana Téllez Chávez, a researcher on environment and human rights for the group Human Rights Watch, wrote in a blog post ahead of the expected announcement.

Updated at 9:38 a.m.

Tags COP26 Deforestation Glasgow Joe Biden UN Climate Summit
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