BBCs Adam Fleming exposed unsettling flaw in COP26 deforestation pledge

COP26: Fleming says deforestation will get worse before it improves

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Leaders at the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow have pledged to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane. But the BBC’s chief political correspondent Adam Fleming has pointed out that the deadline for the pledge does not come fast enough. He said: “It seems pretty big because it covers 85 percent of the world’s forests and the idea is that by 2030, deforestation in those areas will stop and be reversed because new trees and new greenery will be planted to replace ones that were taken away.

“This will also be backed up by £15billion worth of funding, some of which will come from Governments, some of which will come from private donors and some of which will come from companies.

“But this was actually a pledge first signed by an initial group of countries in 2014.

“Now in 2021, it now includes Brazil and China who weren’t on there before but if it doesn’t kick in until 2030 then that’s 16 further years where quite a lot of deforestation could happen.

“Like a lot of pledges we’re seeing at Cop; carbon reductions, methane reductions, it is not happening straight away which means the situation could get slightly worse or a lot worse before the situation starts getting better.”

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use will cover forests totaling more than 13 million square miles, according to a statement released by the UK 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.

US President Joe Biden said a new U.S. plan 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 2030.

“We’re going to work to ensure markets recognize the true economic value of natural carbon sinks and motivate governments, landowners and stakeholders to prioritize conservation,” Biden said.

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A slew of additional government and private initiatives were launched on Tuesday to help reach that goal, including billions in pledges for indigenous guardians of the forest and sustainable agriculture.

Forests absorb roughly 30 percent 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.

The world lost 258,000 sq km (99,600 sq miles) of forest in 2020, according to WRI’s deforestation tracking initiative Global Forest Watch. That is an area larger than the United Kingdom.

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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.

Non-government organization Global Witness said it was unclear how governments would be held accountable for meeting the new pledge. National laws banning companies and financial institutions from activities that fuel deforestation are needed, it said in a statement.

Under the agreement, 12 countries including Britain have pledged to provide £8.75 billion ($12 billion) 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 £5.3 billion would be provided by private sector investors.

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