More than 100 world leaders will sign a landmark agreement to protect and restore Earth’s forests, the UK government has said.
On the second day of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow on Tuesday, leaders covering 85% of the world’s forests will pledge to stop and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.
Downing Street said the pledges were backed by £ 8.75bn (€ 10.3bn) in public funding and £ 5.3bn (€ 6.2bn) in private investments.
The commitment, which will be officially announced at an event hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been welcomed by campaigners and experts, in particular the recognition of the role of indigenous peoples in protecting forests.
But there were warnings that commitments must be kept, and standing forests must be protected, as well as the emphasis on forest restoration.
Mr Johnson backed the move, saying he would support the Cop26 goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C through the absorption of carbon emissions by forests.
“These large teeming ecosystems – these cathedrals of nature – are the lungs of our planet,” he was to say at the event.
“Forests support communities, livelihoods and food supply, and absorb the carbon that we release into the atmosphere. They are essential to our very survival.
“With today’s unprecedented commitments, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as conqueror of nature and instead become its steward. “
The land covered by the agreement stretches from the forests of northern Canada and Russia to the rainforests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – an area of over 13 million of square miles.
Professor Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, said tackling deforestation is key to keeping global warming below 1.5 ° C.
“It is good news to have political commitment to end deforestation in so many countries and significant funding to move forward on this journey,” adding that it was especially welcome that indigenous peoples were finally recognized as the main protectors of forests.
“However, the real challenge is not to make announcements, but to implement synergistic and interlocking policies and actions that actually reduce deforestation on a global scale.
“Careful monitoring of the implementation of each initiative is essential for success,” he said.
Roberto Waack, Brazilian business leader and biologist and visiting scholar at Chatham House international affairs think tank, said: “The agreement is an important step on the road to protecting our precious forests and combating the climate crisis.
“The agreement combines action to stop deforestation and support for indigenous peoples who are the forest’s most ardent defenders. It also includes measures to build stronger sustainable forest economies.
“Today we are celebrating – tomorrow we will start pushing for the deal to be done.”