Saving the world’s forests will be one of the cornerstones of the Cop26 climate summit, said British Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith, with some of the largest forested nations and consumers of forestry products signing an “unprecedented” conservation agreement.
On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders will commit to halting and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030, backed by nearly £ 14 billion in public and private funding. Major producers and consumers of deforestation-related raw materials, including Indonesia, China, Brazil and the United States, have named the agreement, which aims to limit the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Lord Goldsmith told the Guardian: “This is a truly unprecedented package. People will be able to justify having hope [that the world’s forests can be saved]. This puts us on a path to recovery and renewal. “
He said it had “not been easy” to persuade many of the countries involved to join, as the agreement not only requires a commitment to halt deforestation – which has never been achieved before, despite numerous failed attempts – and provide forested countries funds to replace the money they would have earned from exploiting forested land, but also to reform aspects of commodity markets so that buyers can not get away with importing commodities produced from deforested land.
“The different parts of the package are mutually reinforcing,” Goldsmith said. “We are sending a very serious signal to the markets, we have a good promise from buyers. The market has been blind to the value of the environment … The [current economic] the incentives to clear the forest are 40 times greater than the incentives to preserve healthy forests, so it is difficult to change that. “
The range of countries includes China and Brazil as well as smaller developing countries and some major buyers of forestry products who want to clean up their supply chains.
“There are some surprising countries in there, and this is a pretty bullish promise,” the conservative peer said, though he declined to name any countries. “We have managed to persuade some of the more difficult customers to get on board.”
Goldsmith, son of the late billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith, has long been a remarkable environmentalist, a former owner of the magazine Ecologist and a champion and philanthropist of conservation projects. His political career as a Member of Parliament, which included a campaign against Labor’s Sadiq Khan as mayor of London, which was marked by accusations of Islamophobia, ended in defeat in the 2019 election. Shortly afterwards, he was put in Lords, controversially, by Boris Johnson. He was accused by Johnson, an old friend and old Etonian, of what he said was a personal passion for protecting nature and combating the loss of species and habitats.
“Putting nature at the center [of the Cop] has been my obsession. It is wild that nature has always been more or less forgotten [in climate negotiations]said Goldsmith.
The difficulty of achieving the broader agreement hoped for at Cop26, on drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific advice, was evident on the first day of the summit, where more than 120 world leaders gathered in Glasgow. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, delivered a bleak forecast for the outlook. “Recent announcements about climate roofs may give the impression that we are on the verge of turning things around,” he said. “This is an illusion.”
In this context, having a side agreement on forestry in the luggage is a big boost for the UK as hosts. However, some countries and analysts told The Guardian that the agreement, while important, was deficient and deficient in some important respects, with too little cash dedicated to helping poor countries preserve their forests, and too little emphasis on reducing the demand for raw materials – such as such as soy, palm oil and beef – which drives deforestation in the first place.
John Sauven, CEO of Greenpeace, said: “Everyone wants to see zero deforestation, not least the indigenous peoples whose homes and livelihoods are threatened. But without tackling the driving forces behind the destruction, it’s like whistling in the wind to believe, that cash alone will work. Cattle and soy for animal feed are wiping out the Amazon and the savannas of Brazil. The industrial meat industry, like its counterpart in the fossil fuel sector, must have an end. “
He added: “All climate scientists say we should eat less meat. We will not save the forests until politicians stop ignoring that message.”
Native leaders, who have proven to be the best guardians of the natural world of several studies, have also said they were not heard about the statement, adding that many leaders who committed had a history of break promises to protect the rights of natives.
Goldsmith said the deal would benefit forest residents. Indigenous people have always been seen as second tier [at Cops], they have never received this support before, ”he said. “I think this support for them will be a turning point for this policeman.”
He added: “When you put it all together, it’s a robust package trying to get as many big countries together as possible to commit to stopping deforestation. But it’s worth nothing unless they back it up with policies. It will be our job to make this a reality. ”