COP26: more than 100 world leaders commit to 'halt and reverse forest loss' by 2030

Natural Environment

More than a 100 world leaders have made a declaration on forests and land use at COP26 that will see them work in tandem to 'halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation'.

The pledge from countries including the UK, Brazil, Canada, China, Australia and Russia, see the full list here, is one of the first major commitments to preserving our natural environment made collectively by leaders at COP, whose countries together represent 85 per cent of the world's forests.

It also includes a reaffirmation of existing commitments to: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Sustainable Development Goals as well as commitments to sustainable land use, and to the conservation, protection, sustainable management and restoration of forests, and other terrestrial ecosystems.

While welcoming the pledge, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens' director of science professor Alexandre Antonelli emphasised that the "devil is in the detail".

“We applaud the commitment of world leaders to halt and reverse deforestation and other forms of ecosystem degradation by 2030, in parallel with restoring lost habitats to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises" he said. "However, the devil is in the detail: reforestation must follow best scientific practice – planting the right tree in the right place – and protection must start with the most biologically valuable ecosystems such as the Brazilian rainforests, which I grew up exploring."

Continuing he outlined that past promises have failed to translate to practical action: “Halting deforestation has been promised before but failed hugely. We can’t afford repeating that: two in five plant species now face extinction – this is our last window of opportunity. What we need now is delivery, and enough details to hold our leaders to account. Science shows how nature can bring long-lasting benefits to climate, biodiversity and humanity and we scientists are ready to help.”

Over on Twitter there were countless references to a lack of progress on 2014 New York Declaration on Forests, in which world leaders endorsed a 'global timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030'. And with nine years left on the clock for the current declararion there's a lot of work to be done.

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