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Forest and Land-Use Agreement Already In Jeopardy

Forests are one of the only proven weapons in the battle against greenhouse gases, but we are burning them down to create massive factory farms. Millions of acres of critical ecosystems have been lost forever. Many more are hanging in the balance today. Is hope really on the way?

In the COP26 climate summit’s most significant deal, more than 100 world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. It sounds promising, but rampant deforestation has been reshaping the planet for the past century. It has accelerated in the past 50 years. Virtually every continent has been scarred beyond recognition.

Previous forest conservation plans have failed. In fact, deforestation has increased since a similar pledge was launched in 2014. Unfortunately, by 2030, the majority of the world’s most critical ecosystems will be a distant memory. Endangered species will be pushed into extinction and the human race is getting closer to the edge every day.

The countries that signed the pledge cover approximately 90 percent of the world’s forests.

Unfortunately, the pledges are toothless and similar pledges have failed. The good news is that more countries stepped to the table at the COP26 negotiations around forest conservation, including Brazil, China and Russia.

Another promising sign is that the new pledge includes almost $19.2 billion of public and private funds. Some funding will help developing countries restore degraded land, tackle wildfires and support indigenous communities. More than $1.35 billion will help protect the Congo Basin—the world’s second largest tropical rainforest. The United States will invest more than $9 billion in forest conservation and reforestation. At least $1.5 billion will be given to indigenous peoples to help protect forests.

“We must stop the devastating loss of our forests and end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “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.”

One fifth of beef and soybean exports from Brazil to the European Union is produced on land that was illegally deforested, according to a report published in Science magazine.

Governments of 28 countries committed to remove deforestation from the global trade of food and other agricultural products such as palm oil, soya and cocoa. Removing the link between deforestation and consumer goods sold in developed countries is a complex piece of the equation. These industries drive forest loss by cutting down trees to make space for animals to graze or crops to grow. More than 30 of the world’s largest financial companies have promised to end investment in activities linked to deforestation.

deforestation and global warming

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use

We, the leaders of the countries identified below:

  • Emphasize the critical and interdependent roles of forests of all types, biodiversity and sustainable land use in enabling the world to meet its sustainable development goals; to help achieve a balance between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removal by sinks; to adapt to climate change; and to maintain other ecosystem services.
  • Reaffirm our respective commitments, collective and individual, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Sustainable Development Goals; and other relevant initiatives.
  • Reaffirm our respective commitments to sustainable land use, and to the conservation, protection, sustainable management and restoration of forests, and other terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Recognize that to meet our land use, climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals, both globally and nationally, will require transformative further action in the interconnected areas of sustainable production and consumption; infrastructure development; trade; finance and investment; and support for smallholders, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities, who depend on forests for their livelihoods and have a key role in their stewardship.
  • Highlight the areas of strong progress in recent years and the opportunities before us to accelerate action.

We therefore commit to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. We will strengthen our shared efforts to:

  • Conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration; 
  • Facilitate trade and development policies, internationally and domestically, that promote sustainable development, and sustainable commodity production and consumption, that work to countries’ mutual benefit, and that do not drive deforestation and land degradation;
  • Reduce vulnerability, build resilience and enhance rural livelihoods, including through empowering communities, the development of profitable, sustainable agriculture, and recognition of the multiple values of forests, while recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as local communities, in accordance with relevant national legislation and international instruments, as appropriate;
  • Implement and, if necessary, redesign agricultural policies and programs to incentivize sustainable agriculture, promote food security, and benefit the environment; 
  • Reaffirm international financial commitments and significantly increase finance and investment from a wide variety of public and private sources, while also improving its effectiveness and accessibility, to enable sustainable agriculture, sustainable forest management, forest conservation and restoration, and support for Indigenous Peoples and local communities;
  • Facilitate the alignment of financial flows with international goals to reverse forest loss and degradation, while ensuring robust policies and systems are in place to accelerate the transition to an economy that is resilient and advances forest, sustainable land use, biodiversity and climate goals.

We urge all leaders to join forces in a sustainable land use transition. This is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, including reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and holding the increase in the global average temperature below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, noting that the science shows further acceleration of efforts is needed if we are to collectively keep 1.5°C within reach. Together we can succeed in fighting climate change, delivering resilient and inclusive growth, and halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation.

Signed by,

1. Albania
2. Andorra
3. Angola
4. Argentina
5. Armenia
6. Australia
7. Austria
8. Azerbaijan
9. Bangladesh
10. Belgium
11. Belize
12. Bhutan
13. Bosnia and Herzegovina
14. Botswana
15. Brazil
16. Brunei Darussalam
17. Bulgaria
18. Burkina Faso
19. Cameroon
20. Canada
21. Central African Republic
22. Chad
23. Chile
24. China
25. Colombia
26. Costa Rica
27. Côte d’Ivoire
28. Croatia
29. Cuba
30. Cyprus
31. Czechia
32. Denmark
33. Dominican Republic
34. Democratic Republic of the Congo
35. Ecuador
36. El Salvador
37. Equatorial Guinea
38. Estonia
39. Eswatini
40. European Commission on behalf of the European Union
41. Fiji
42. Finland
43. France
44. Gabon
45. Georgia
46. Germany
47. Ghana
48. Greece
49. Grenada
50. Guatemala
51. Guinea Bissau
52. Guyana
53. Haiti
54. Holy See
55. Honduras
56. Hungary
57. Iceland
58. Indonesia
59. Ireland
60. Israel
61. Italy
62. Jamaica
63. Japan
64. Kazakhstan
65. Kenya
66. Kyrgyzstan
67. Latvia
68. Lebanon
69. Liberia
70. Liechtenstein
71. Lithuania
72. Luxembourg
73. Madagascar
74. Malawi
75. Malaysia
76. Mali
77. Malta
78. Mauritius
79. Mexico
80. Moldova
81. Monaco
82. Mongolia
83. Montenegro
84. Morocco
85. Mozambique
86. Nepal
87. Netherlands
88. New Zealand
89. Nicaragua
90. Niger
91. Nigeria
92. North Macedonia
93. Norway
94. Pakistan
95. Panama
96. Papua New Guinea
97. Paraguay
98. Peru
99. Philippines
100. Poland
101. Portugal
102. Republic of the Congo
103. Romania
104. Russia
105. Rwanda
106. Saint Lucia
107. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
108. Samoa
109. San Marino
110. Sao Tome and Principe
111. Senegal
112. Serbia
113. Seychelles
114. Sierra Leone
115. Singapore
116. Slovakia
117. Slovenia
118. Somalia
119. South Korea
120. Spain
121. Sri Lanka
122. Suriname
123. Sweden
124. Switzerland
125. Syria
126. Tanzania

127. Togo
128. Tonga
129. Turkey
130. Turkmenistan
131. Uganda
132. Ukraine
133. United Arab Emirates
134. United Kingdom
135. United States of America
136. Uruguay
137. Uzbekistan
138. Vanuatu
139. Vietnam
140. Zambia
141. Zimbabwe

Unfortunately, dissent is already brewing among the key signatories.

“Forcing Indonesia to zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair,” said Indonesia’s Minister of Environment, Siti Nurbaya Bakar. “The massive development of President Jokowi’s era must not stop in the name of carbon emissions or in the name of deforestation.”

Indonesia has the world’s third-largest rainforest. It’s been cut in half over the past 50 years for pulp, paper and palm plantations. Similar trends are firmly in place in most nations. Stopping this momentum will not be easy as long as forests are not fully and fairly valued. Commodity producers will continue to take public land and indigenous land for their own profit. Unfortunately, deforestation is a double-edged sword and it’s cutting our throat in the battle against global warming.

Over half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed since the 1960s, and every second, more than one hectare of tropical forests is destroyed or drastically degraded. Deforestation occurs when forests are converted to non-forest uses, such as agriculture and road construction. Forest degradation occurs when forest ecosystems lose their capacity to provide important goods and services to people and nature.

This intense and devastating pressure on forests is not limited to the tropics. Millions of acres of forests across Europe and North America are damaged by livestock, insects, diseases, forest fires, and other human-linked activities.

Over 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests. The degradation and loss of forests threaten the survival of many species, and reduces the ability of forests to clean our air and water. They help convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Life depends on forests.

Of course, the top priority is forest conservation, but when the damage has already been done, nature-based solutions such as forest landscape restoration can help countries reverse the effects of deforestation and degradation and regain the ecological, social, climatic and economic benefits of forests. Of course, they can’t bring back animals from extinction, but it can help stop the loss of habitat and hopefully mitigate some of the loss.

Forest landscape restoration (FLR), for example, is one way to bring stakeholders together to identify and implement the most appropriate restoration plans. It seeks to accommodate the needs of all land users. FLR includes agroforestry, erosion control and natural forest regeneration. FLR also educates farming communities in and around forests about sustainable agricultural methods that do not destroy forests.

deforestation and reforestationforest conservation and carbon sink

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservationreforestationurban forestrycarbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management is critical to the survival of entire ecosystemsSacred Seedlings is a charitable division of Crossbow Communications.

Avatar Gary Chandler

Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is the founder and Executive Director of Sacred Seedlings.