In a comprehensive agreement aimed at protecting the world’s forests, which are crucial for absorbing carbon dioxide and slowing the rise in global warming, leaders from more than 100 countries gathered in Glasgow on Tuesday promised to stop deforestation by 2030.
President Biden said the United States would contribute billions to global efforts to protect the ecosystems that are essential to purify the air we breathe and the water we drink and keep the earth’s climate in balance.
The pact – which also includes countries such as Brazil, Russia and China – covers about 85 percent of the world’s forests, officials said. It is one of the first major agreements stemming from the UN climate summit known as COP26, which is seen as a crucial moment in the efforts to tackle climate change.
“These vast swarming ecosystems – these natural cathedrals,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom when he announced the deal, “are the lungs of our planet.”
President Biden said he would work with Congress to commit up to $ 9 billion to global efforts by 2030. In addition, governments committed $ 12 billion by 2025, and private companies pledged $ 7 billion to protect and restore forests. in a variety of ways, including $ 1.7 billion. for indigenous peoples. More than 30 financial institutions also promised to stop investing in companies responsible for deforestation.
It was not the first time that world leaders have announced a grand deal to address the critical issue.
In 2014, an agreement was reached to halve deforestation by 2020 and complete it completely by 2030. But five years after the promise, the annual forest area had, according to an estimate, become dramatically worse.
Some environmentalists predicted that the same thing would happen this time.
“It allows another decade of deforestation and is not binding,” said Carolina Pasquali, CEO of Greenpeace Brazil. “Meanwhile, the Amazon is already on the brink and cannot survive years of deforestation.”
Supporters of the new promise note that it expands the number of countries and comes with specific steps to save forests.
“What we are doing here is trying to change the economy of the earth to make forests more valuable alive than dead,” said Eron Bloomgarden, whose group, Emergent, helps match public and private investors with forested countries and provinces that wants to receive payments to reduce deforestation.
The new commitment comes amid a growing awareness of the role of nature in tackling the climate crisis. Intact forests and peatlands are natural carbon stores that keep it sealed away from the atmosphere. However, when these areas are logged, burned or drained, the ecosystems shift to release greenhouse gases.
If tropical deforestation were a country, according to the World Resources Institute, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the United States. Much of the world’s deforestation is driven by commodity farming, as people cut down trees to make way for cattle, soy, cocoa and palm oil.
In an emotional speech Tuesday at the summit, President Ali Bongo of Gabon said other leaders had not been able to see how the world underestimated Africa’s critical ecosystems.
“The Congo Basin is the heart and lungs of the African continent,” he said. “Our forests send rain to the Sahel and the Ethiopian highlands. They are critical to the African continent.”
Gabon is one of the few nations that absorbs more carbon than they emit, with a forest that stretches across most of the country.
“That’s my hope,” said Mr. Bongo, “that Glasgow will mark a turning point.”