Climate activists lament weak COP26 deforestation declaration

Activists and civil society groups have raised doubts about a new declaration to end deforestation by 2030 that was announced during the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

As part of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, more than 120 countries pledged to halt and mitigate deforestation by 2030.

The announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson alongside the presidents of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, and of Colombia, Iván Duque.

Under the deal, more than $19bn has been pledged, $12bn of which comes from 12 donor countries with the rest being raised from private initiatives and philanthropic organisations.

But bodies such as Greenpeace UK believe the new agreement does not address the causes of deforestation.

“It’s simple. World leaders can’t commit to ‘end deforestation by 2030’ if we don’t cut down one of the main drivers of #deforestation: meat and dairy consumption,” the organisation Tweeted.

Louis Verchot, head of research for landscape restoration for the Bioversity International Alliance, told climate site SciDev.Net that the agreement lacked any concrete methods of reaching the 2030 goal, just like a similar deal agreed in 2014.

“We had the same problem with an agreement back in 2014, in New York, in which many countries and many representatives of the private sector agreed to reduce and eliminate deforestation.

“There are the goals but not the procedures to achieve it.”

Activists also say there are few details on how the progress of each country will be monitored, or how to sanction them if they do not comply.

“The Glasgow agreement on forests needs transparent targets, with external verification to ensure genuine progress,” said Steve Trent, CEO and co-founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Climate experts involved in the conference have called for clear monitoring measures to ensure that the broad swathe of climate announcements on climate finance and emissions reductions are met.

The UK released draft texts on Wednesday that could form the basis of a final ‘cover decision’ or Glasgow agreement.

Yet key issues – including transparency measures and commitments for the cost of loss and damage to countries – have still not been finalised, and meetings are likely to continue late into Friday night.

There is historical precedent for such the concern too – pledges for $100bn in climate finance from wealthy countries that were originally made at a Copenhagen summit in 2009 remain unfulfilled, so developing countries are wary of additional claims of support for adaptation and mitigation funding.

Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based climate think-tank Power Shift Africa, said: “12 years down the line, we’re still looking for the money.

“Finance remains a sticking point ... It’s not just because it’s needed for ambition, but it’s also so critical to rebuilding trust between the parties, so that they can work together to close the emission gap.”

The Climate Action Tracker said earlier this week that the world was still heading towards global warming of at least 2.4°C despite the rhetoric from large countries that they still want to keep it to just 1.5°C.

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