GLASGOW (November 2, 2021)—On the second day of the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, over 100 countries pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. In the plan, global leaders affirmed the role of forests in balancing greenhouse gas emissions and removals, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and maintaining healthy ecosystem services. They called for “transformative” action through shared efforts to conserve forests, promote sustainable trade and development policies, reduce human vulnerabilities, redesign agricultural policies, and increase financial incentives in the name of a “sustainable land use transition”. 

Following is a statement from Rod Taylor, Forest Program Global Director, World Resources Institute: 

“This announcement sends an undeniable message that forests are critical to meeting global climate goals. Ending deforestation is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. Recent analysis from WRI shows that the world’s forests can absorb 1.5 times more carbon than the United States emits annually. 

“Countries representing over 85% of the world’s forest signed onto the agreement – including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which house the largest tracts of tropical forests, as well as the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest market economies. 

“Of course, we have seen bold forest pledges before and deforestation rates are still trending in the wrong direction. For example, primary forest loss in 2020 was 12% higher than the year before.

“In order to make real progress, the declaration must herald new ways of doing business, including far more accountability. For example, countries need to insert concrete forest protection measures into trade agreements and national development plans. 

“We need more investment in forests, such as the $9 billion commitment from the U.S., and $1 billion from the public-private LEAF Coalition. The finance sector must stop financing deforestation, as institutions managing over $8.7 trillion in global assets have just vowed to do. These resources must be plentiful enough to create a real incentive for developing countries to prevent deforestation and support farmers in transitioning to sustainable land use practices. 

“We also need a step-change in transparency. The boundaries and owners of permits and licenses to use forests and land should no longer be secret. The origins of commodities should be disclosed, and governments and companies should openly monitor and report their progress towards the goals of the declaration.

“Perhaps most importantly, we will be looking for countries to take concrete steps to secure the rights, livelihoods and cultural heritage of the Indigenous Peoples and communities who live in and around vulnerable forests. Country donors and private funders pledged $1.7 billion in support of raising visibility and assigning 'design-making roles' to Indigenous Peoples and local communities helping to prevent deforestation. 

“Together, these steps can ensure that the admirable vision set forth in today’s announcement translates into real action that halts deforestation and combats the climate crisis.”