More than 100 world leaders have promised to stop and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade.
The agreement, signed at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, is estimated to cover 85% of the world’s forests, an area of over 13 million square miles..
It promises to protect areas including the Congo Basin, home to the second largest rain forest, the Amazon, and the eastern Siberian taiga.
The UK government described it as the biggest step forward in protecting the world’s forests in a generation.
WWF has estimated that forest the size of a football pitch is lost every two seconds.
Forests absorb about a third of the global carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels ever year. Destruction of forests to produce products such as palm oil, soya, beef and cocoa, is a major source of carbon emissions.
The agreement, to be known as the Glasgow Declaration, is the first major deal to come out of the COP26 talks. The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson said this morning:
“With this pledge, we have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and become its custodian.”
A previous agreement, signed in 2014, promised to halve tropical deforestation and restore 150 million hectares of land by 2020. But since then, the loss of primary forest has increased.
This time, the signatories include Russia and China, alongside countries with some of the largest areas of forest, such as Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The deal includes £5.3bn of new private finance and £8.75bn of public funding to restore degraded land, support indigenous communities, protect forest and heal the effects of damage from wildfires.
The UK will provide £1.5bn, of which £350m will go to Indonesia and £200m to the LEAF Coalition, an organisation working to protect tropical forests. The UK will also contribute £200m to a new £1.1bn fund to protect the Congo Basin, where forests are threatened by logging, mining and agriculture.
The agreement includes a commitment to removing deforestation from the global trade in food and agricultural products.
More than 30 of the largest finance companies, including Aviva, Schroders and Axa, will end investment in activities linked to deforestation.
The president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, said:
“Indonesia is blessed as the most carbon rich country in the world on vast rainforests, mangroves, oceans and peatlands. We are committed to protecting these critical carbon sinks and our natural capital for future generations.
“We call on all countries to support sustainable development paths that strengthen the livelihoods of communities – especially indigenous, women and smallholders.”
President of Colombia Iván Duque said:
“Never before have so many leaders, from all regions, representing all types of forests, joined forces in this way and Colombia is committed to playing its part. We will enshrine in law a commitment to net-zero deforestation by 2030 – one of the most ambitious commitments in Latin America – and to protecting 30% of our land and ocean resources by 2030.
“Now we must all work in partnership with businesses, the finance sector, smallholder farmers, Indigenous Peoples and local communities to create the conditions for forest-positive economies to grow and thrive.
Tuntiak Katan, coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, representing communities from the rainforests of Africa, Latin America and Indonesia, said the announcement raised the visibility of indigenous peoples and local communities as a climate solution to an “unprecedented level”.
But Carlos Rittl, from Brazil for the Rainforest Foundation Norway, said:
“Big cheques won’t save the forests if the money doesn’t go into the right hands.”
And Asad Rehman, of War on Want and the CoP26 Coalition, said:
“I’m all for positive announcements at COP26: But yet again promising to end deforestation by 2030 whilst expanding fossil fuels, bankrolling big agribusiness and the net zero madness that requires massive land grabs will just end up burning our forests.”
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, was also cautious about the agreement:
“Everyone wants to see zero deforestation, not least the indigenous peoples whose homes and livelihoods are under threat. But without tackling the drivers of destruction it’s like whistling in the wind to think cash alone will work. Cattle and soya for animal feed are wiping out the Amazon and savannahs of Brazil. The industrial meat industry, like its counterpart in the fossil fuel sector, needs to come to an end.”
In a separate announcement, at least £1.25bn of funding will be given directly to indigenous peoples and local communities by governments and philanthropists for their role in protecting forests. But the promised funds are still below what some believe is needed.
Mina Setra, an indigenous rights activist from Borneo, said:
“We are undervalued and our rights are still not respected.
“A statement is not enough. We need evidence, not only words.”
Full list of signatories to the Glasgow Declaration
Albania, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, European Union, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Romania, Russia, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Tanzania, Togo, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
DrillOrDrop’s reporting from COP26 has been made possible by individual donations from readers