More than a hundred countries vowed on Tuesday to halt deforestation in the next decade, a commitment that scientists say is important to preventing climate change but has been made and broken in the past.
The promise was lauded by Britain as the first major victory of the United Nations climate conference, known as COP26, which is taking place this month in Glasgow, Scotland. However, activists claim that they need to examine the facts to fully comprehend the implications.
According to the UK government, leaders representing more than 85 percent of the world’s forests have pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States are just a few of the countries having large woods.
The initiative has received more than $19 billion in public and private funding.
“With today’s historic commitments, we will have an opportunity to halt humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Forests are vital ecosystems that help to absorb carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Carbon sinks, or locations where carbon is stored, include trees, which are one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.
However, the rising need for agricultural and pastoral land, combined with the high value of wood as a commodity, is leading to widespread and frequently illegal forest destruction, particularly in developing nations.
“We are happy to have Indigenous Peoples acknowledged in today’s forest accord,” said Joseph Itongwa Mukumo, a Congolese Indigenous Walikale and campaigner.
He urged governments and corporations to recognize Indigenous populations’ important role in reducing deforestation.
Similar accords in the past have failed to work, according to experts.
World leaders vowed in 2014 to eliminate deforestation by 2030, according to Alison Hoare, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, “but deforestation has risen across many nations since then.”
Despite this, Luciana Tellez Chavez, an environmental researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the accord had “quite a few very beneficial components.”
“It’s extremely exciting to see China and Brazil signing up to a declaration that suggests that’s a goal,” she said, adding that the EU, the UK, and the US are making headway on banning imports of commodities connected to deforestation and human rights violations.
She did, however, point out that Brazil’s public pronouncements do not yet match its domestic practices, and she warned that the agreement may be used to “greenwash” the image of some countries.
In the aftermath of rising deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands, which drew worldwide outcry and threats of divestment in recent years, the Brazilian government has been eager to present itself as a responsible environmental steward. However, opponents warned that its pledges should be taken with a grain of salt, given that the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a vocal supporter of Amazon development.
Around 130 international leaders are gathering in Glasgow for what the host country claims is the world’s last realistic opportunity to reduce global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — the goal established six years ago in Paris.
According to experts, increased global warming over the next several decades would melt most of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels, and dramatically increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather.
On Monday, officials and activists alike issued stern warnings to the leaders about the dangers. Global warming, according to Johnson, is “a doomsday mechanism.” Humans are “digging our own graves,” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, cautioned leaders not to “let greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our collective demise.”
“Rise beyond the politics of the time, and attain real statesmanship,” Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom advised the leaders.
“We are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps,” she stated in a video message shown at a Kelvingrove museum event on Monday evening.
The 95-year-old monarch had intended to attend the conference, but she had to postpone it when physicians advised her to rest rather than travel.
The British government said on Monday that it has seen encouraging indicators that international leaders were aware of the seriousness of the issue. President Joe Biden of the United States was scheduled to reveal his administration’s strategy to cut methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes considerably to global warming, on Tuesday. The declaration was made as part of a larger initiative with the European Union and other countries to cut global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
However, environmentalists argue that the world’s largest carbon polluters must do considerably more. Earth’s temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). According to current forecasts based on expected emissions reduction over the next decade, it will reach 2.7°C (4.9°F) by 2100.
Greta Thunberg, a climate activist, told a protest outside the high-security climate venue that the inside discourse was “blah blah blah” and would accomplish nothing.
“Change will not come from inside,” she warned some of the tens of thousands of demonstrators who had gathered in Glasgow to make their opinions known. “This is leadership, not that,” says the speaker.