Paris moment for forests as world leaders pledge $ 19 billion in action against deforestation

The World Leaders’ Summit at COP26 announced its first major agreement, where 105 countries covering 85% of the world’s forests pledged to act to reduce and reverse deforestation. For many, this news signals a systemic shift in finance to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, nature-friendly and climate-resilient future.

Professor Yadvinder Malhi CBE FRS, Professor of Ecosystems Science at the University of Oxford, said: “This is an important moment, like a ‘Parisian moment’ for forests. In Paris in 2016, world leaders pledged to recognize the concept of net-zero, to draw a line in the sand around the amount of greenhouse gases that can be allowed into the atmosphere. Now in Glasgow, they have embarked on a similar aspiration to deforestation and land degradation, to stop and start reversing these trends by 2030. “

The world cannot reach net zero without ending deforestation, when more than half of global GDP is threatened by biodiversity loss. According to Justin Adams, executive director of Tropical Forest Alliance, “Nature is about a third of the climate solution, but nature-based solutions only receive 8% of public climate funding. This balance must change if net zero is to be reached by 2050.

In the center of the Declaration of the leaders is a commitment to the sustainable use of land and to the conservation, protection, sustainable management and restoration of forests and other terrestrial ecosystems. He says, “We therefore commit to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while ensuring sustainable development and promoting inclusive rural transformation. ”

Morgan Gillespy, global director of the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), said: “The declaration builds on the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), but changes the critical goal of ending deforestation from 2020 to 2030. As always, there is a difference between commitment and action and deforestation has actually increased since the 2014 NYDF. ”Malhi added,“ Just like with net zero ambition, the real one work begins with how to realistically realize and implement these ambitions at the speed required, and to achieve them in such a way that equity, justice and local rights are woven through the fabric.

Patrick Frick, Director of the Global Commons Alliance, added: “This is a giant leap forward in protecting critical global commons. If this is successful, our future is positive in nature. But that will only be successful if we have the right accountability systems in place. Accountability and change in the way we assign and understand value will play a central role in changing the way we approach land use and land use change.

Today, funding for activities that destroy natural ecosystems (like lending policies and grants) is nearly 40 times that of green finance. While $ 26 billion has been invested since 2010 to save forests, $ 1.3 trillion has been spent to clear them. It is not just the threat to biodiversity, but ecosystem services such as clean air, water, flood defenses and more that they provide that are threatened. The world’s ecosystem services are worth an estimated $ 125 trillion a year, supporting industries that employ 1.2 billion people and yet there is a funding gap of 700 billion dollars per year simply to reverse the decline of nature by 2030.

The pledge includes more than $ 19 billion in public and private funds to support the action – with 14 countries and philanthropic donors as well by pledging at least $ 1.7 billion from 2021 to 2025 to advance the forest tenure rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and support their role as stewards of forests and nature.

The pledge will be backed by a pledge to provide $ 12 billion in public funding from 12 countries, including the UK, from 2021 to 2025. This will add to at least $ 7.2 billion in private sector funding. newly mobilized. CEOs of more than 30 financial institutions with more than $ 8.7 trillion in global assets – including Aviva, Schroders and Axa – will also pledge to phase out investments in deforestation-related activities.

Twelve countries and philanthropic donors pledged at least $ 1.5 billion (£ 1.1 billion) to protect the forests of the Congo Basin. It is the region that is home to the second largest tropical rainforest in the world, of critical importance to global efforts to tackle climate change as well as to sustainable development in the region, food security and more. The UK government’s £ 1.5 billion funding is focused on the Congo Basin and West Africa, as well as Indonesia.

Malhi said, “Financial commitment certainly helps, but more is needed and funding alone is not enough. But it is truly striking to see such a statement, a statement that includes major rainforest nations like Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as major consumer countries in the West and Asia.

The governments of 28 countries have also pledged to eliminate agricultural products linked to deforestation, including palm oil, soybeans and cocoa. This is going to be an important task, as it involves reworking the global food system.

What COP26 increasingly represents is the recognition that the three conventions resulting from the Rio Earth Summit are inextricably linked. While climate change may have had greater visibility to date, the leaders’ letter explicitly states that leaders “reaffirm our respective commitments, collective and individual, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations. Paris Agreement, Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Sustainable Development Goals; and other relevant initiatives. Action against deforestation cuts across all conventions and more, and this is a positive sign that interventions with multiple benefits may be increasingly on the agenda.

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