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Beyond coal: COP26 climate summit calls for an end to deforestation

World leaders attending the COP26 UN climate summit should focus not only on giving up fossil fuels, but also on setting ambitious goals to end deforestation – and drive forest conservation To expand funding and regulations, environmentalists are urging. More than 100 world leaders have confirmed they will personally attend the UN’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next month.

A key objective of the convention is to wean out the finances from polluting fossil fuels – particularly coal – that account for the lion’s share of climate-heating emissions. But green groups say the importance of carbon-storing forests in curbing global warming is being overlooked by many countries – particularly in their climate funding – limiting progress in helping economies become deforestation-free. with. In 2015, about 195 countries agreed to limit the increase in global average temperature over this century to “well below” 2 °C and ideally 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

“COP26, in its right place, provides a great opportunity to place forests high on the climate agenda,” said Frances Seymour, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the US-based think-tank World Resources Institute.

“We need to start thinking about tropical deforestation the way we think about coal: we have to phase it out as soon as possible, otherwise the goals of the Paris Agreement will remain out of reach,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Told. Forests have major implications for global goals to curb climate change, as trees absorb about a third of the carbon emissions produced worldwide, which they release when they rot or burn.

Forests also provide food and livelihood, help clean air and water, support human health, are an essential habitat for wildlife, aid in tropical rainfall and provide flood protection. But in 2020, worldwide tropical forest loss became the size of the Netherlands, according to the monitoring service Global Forest Watch. Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) secretary general Toeris Jger said that about a third of the world’s original rainforest has already been completely destroyed, while a third is in poor condition.

All emissions reduction scenarios that limit warming to 1.5C “depend on urgently ending and reversing this destruction of the rainforest”, he said.


Danny Marks, assistant professor of environmental politics and policy at Dublin City University, said forests emit more than 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually – 1.5 times more than the United States, the world’s second-largest emitter. But emissions from forests have increased. “If we want to address climate change, we need to stop deforestation,” Marx said. “Unfortunately, in comparison to reducing fossil fuel emissions, forests are not getting the attention they deserve beyond COP26.

“This has to change,” he said, pointing to the more than 1 billion people who depend on forests for their livelihood.

They also noted that the potential of forests to reduce carbon emissions is greater than other solutions because preserving them prevents their carbon stock from being released, while as forests grow, they They also capture carbon from the air. Stopping deforestation, along with other natural protection efforts, he said could achieve more than a third of the way in which the world would limit warming to 2C, he said.

It is also cost-effective because it does not require expensive or unproven technology such as carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions from industrial processes. In Indonesia, the world’s third largest for tropical forests, conservationists are using cheap audio sensors.
For example, listen to chains deal with illegal logging, while former loggers are being trained to fight wildfires.

Marx said less than 3% of the funding for measures to reduce emissions is devoted to forest conservation.

“COP26 therefore represents a significant opportunity for countries to do more on forests immediately,” he said.

money to communities

For COP26, governments and businesses have shown increasing interest in providing financial support to protect nature and forests – and green groups hope this will continue. Private donors pledged a record $5 billion last month to help protect the planet’s plants and animals. and ecosystem.

But without placing the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities at the core of the tropical deforestation response and allocating direct funding for their efforts, forests will not be saved, RFN’s Jagger said.

Last year, for example, an indigenous community in Brazil helped protect the Amazon by negotiating with illegal gold miners to halt operations and remove their equipment.

Globally, about 35% of protected natural areas are traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by indigenous and local communities, yet they are rarely considered in the design of conservation and climate programs, say the researchers.

People in Guyana’s south Rupununi region are already experiencing worsening climate-change impacts – such as flooding and heat waves – said Imakulata Casimero, co-founder of the Wapichan Vizi Women’s Movement, a local advocacy group. Governments must issue legal titles to indigenous peoples. He said that their land and territories have played a positive role in preventing global warming.

“We should be seeing direct payments to the communities that are actually protecting the forests and not to the states,” Casemiro said.

deforestation drivers

Conservationists blame the production of commodities such as palm oil and minerals for the destruction of forests, as they are cleared for plantations, ranches, fields and mines. Over the past decade, pressure from consumers and green groups has pushed big brands to trade or buy
Objects to pledge to end deforestation.

Many have pledged to buy only supplies certified as sustainable, and to work with green groups to end deforestation from supply chains, including investing in technologies to track what’s happening on the ground. includes doing.


Environmentalists urged countries at the COP26 climate summit to consider removing harmful subsidies to forests and implementing trade rules that exclude companies or investors involved in forest destruction.

“More needs to be done to address the drivers of deforestation – commercial agricultural expansion such as palm oil, soy, beef and plantations,” said Marks of Dublin City University. Governments should do more to crack down on and pressure these industries and the banks that finance them. “

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