In the biggest step forward in protecting the world’s forests in a generation, more than 100 leaders will commit to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 at an event convened by the Prime Minister at COP26 today. The pledge is backed by almost £14bn ($19.2bn) in public and private funding.
Countries spanning from the northern forests of Canada and Russia to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will endorse the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use. Together, they contain 85% of the world’s forests, an area of over 13 million square miles.
Forests are the lungs of our planet, absorbing around one-third of the global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year, but we are losing them at an alarming rate. An area of forest the size of 27 football pitches is lost every minute.
The commitment will be supported by a pledge to provide £8.75bn ($12bn) of public finance from 12 countries, including the UK, from 2021 – 2025. This will support activities in developing countries, including restoring degraded land, tackling wildfires and supporting the rights of indigenous communities.
This will go alongside at least £5.3bn ($7.2bn) of newly-mobilised private sector funding. CEOs from more than 30 financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion of global assets – including Aviva, Schroders and Axa – will also commit to eliminate investment in activities linked to deforestation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to say at the Forest & Land Use event at COP26 today: “Today, at COP26, leaders have signed a landmark agreement to protect and restore the earth’s forests.
“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.
“With today’s unprecedented pledges, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian.”
The UK will commit £1.5bn over five years to support the forests pledge, including £350m for tropical forests in Indonesia, and £200m for the LEAF Coalition.
The UK will also contribute £200m, alongside 11 other donors, as part of a new £1.1bn ($1.5bn) fund to protect the Congo Basin. The area is home to the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world which is threatened by industrial logging, mining and agriculture.
Governments representing 75% of global trade in key commodities that can threaten forests – such as palm oil, cocoa and soya – will also sign up to a new Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Statement. The 28 governments are committing to a common set of actions to deliver sustainable trade and reduce pressure on forests, including support for smallholder farmers and improving the transparency of supply chains.
Currently almost a quarter (23%) of global emissions come from land use activity, such as logging, deforestation and farming. Protecting forests and ending damaging land use is one of the most important things the world can do to limit catastrophic global warming, while also protecting the lives and futures of the 1.6 billion people worldwide – nearly 25% of the world’s population – who rely on forests for their livelihoods.