Deforestation deal divides opinion

A commitment to end deforestation by 2030 agreed during the first week of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has received a mixed response with some experts welcoming a “positive declaration” and others labelling it a “green light for destruction”.

On Tuesday, world leaders representing over 85% of the world’s forests committed to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. They include countries with huge areas of forested land including Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Canada.

The pledge is backed by almost £14bn in public and private funding for restoring degraded land, tackling wildfires, supporting the rights of indigenous communities and eliminating investment activities linked to deforestation.

Forests absorb around one-third of the global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year, but the world is losing them at an alarming rate with an area of forest the size of 27 football pitches lost every minute.

The UK government has already drawn up plans to make it mandatory for large companies, including those in the food and drink sector, to carry out due diligence checks to ensure there is no illegal deforestation in their supply chains for forest-risk commodities such as soya and palm oil, however campaigners have warned the law in its current form will have limited effect.

Business targets to end deforestation by 2020 made as part of the 2014 New York declaration on forests have also largely been missed.

The chairman of the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee of MPs, Philip Dunne, welcomed the new agreement as “a really positive declaration” which shows “significant political willingness to tackle deforestation”. But Dunne warned against complacency and called for “regular internationally measured accountability against these pledges”.

Greenpeace, however, labelled the agreement “a green light for another decade of forest destruction”.

Greenpeace UK head of forests Anna Jones said: “Until we put a stop to the expansion of industrial agriculture, start moving towards plant-based diets and reduce the amount of industrial meat and dairy we consume, indigenous people’s rights will continue to be threatened and nature will continue to be destroyed, rather than given the opportunity to restore and rebound.”

World leaders also agreed in Glasgow to slash methane emissions by 30% by 2030, when compared to levels in 2020.

Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is produced during fossil fuel production along with certain agricultural practices such as livestock rearing and rice growing.

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