The World Leaders Summit kicked off the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), bringing together the 197 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Hosted by the UK, the COP26 climate talks couldn’t come at a more crucial time. The recent events of wildfires and floods in several parts of the world have left little doubt that climate change is real and is affecting all corners of the planet.
On the 2nd day of the United Nations COP26 Summit, a pivotal pledge to save our forests was officially announced. World leaders from over 100 nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, and China, have agreed to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Approximately $20 billion of private and public funds have been committed to protecting and restoring forests.
Welcoming participants to the key Leaders Event on Forest and Land Use at COP26, Master of Ceremony Sandrine Dixson-Declève, said, “Today is going to be a monumental day, we are setting the tone of how we can preserve the lungs of the world.” The two-week climate summit is viewed as vital if climate change is really to be brought under control.
A film narrated by Sir David Attenborough was played on the screens. “By destroying forests, we are harming biodiversity and our lives… Forests provide fresh water, clean the air we breathe, inspire spiritual value, and provide us with food… Our challenge now must be to halt deforestation and beginning to restore forests. It is a huge undertaking, and every country will need their own table approach.” His distinctive voice resonated all through the venue and everyone present heard his call to action.
Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, came to the podium and made the announcement that at least 110 countries demonstrating nearly 85% of the Earth’s forests had signed the crucial COP26 Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, vowing to halt deforestation by 2030.
“We urge all leaders to join forces in a sustainable land use transition,” said delegates in their declaration when agreeing to the deal. “This is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, including reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.” Furthermore, they added: “Together we can succeed in fighting climate change, delivering resilient and inclusive growth, and halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation.”
Countries participating in the scheme have made numerous promises as they committed to working collectively “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.” Some nations signing up for the agreement are the EU, the UK, China, Russia, Canada, and Indonesia. Brazilian President Bolsonaro, who has taken the pledge to sign this deal, has been facing global condemnation over fires and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
What Is The COP26?
COP is the abbreviated form of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change. It is an event that takes place annually, even though it was postponed last year owing to the global pandemic. The 26 denotes that it is the 26th meeting of the group.
Forests & The Changing Climate
Besides being important to life on the Earth, forests are the stabilizing force for the climate. Forests purify the air we breathe, prevent soil erosion, and act as a significant buffer against climate change. Our forests take carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere and stop from warming the climate.
Hitherto this natural climate buffer is decreasing rapidly. As per WRI’s deforestation tracking initiative Global Forest Watch, the world has lost 258,000 sq. km (99,600 sq. miles) of forest in 2020 – an area larger than the entire U.K. Preventing the loss and degradation of forest ecosystems and encouraging their restoration can contribute over one-third of the climate change mitigation which is needed by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
Scientists worldwide fear that the destruction of the Amazon – the largest rainforest in the world, might push it beyond a point of no return, when it can no longer sustain itself and dry out into grassland. Not only will this release a massive amount of greenhouse gases, but also be catastrophic for the worldwide climate.
Governments of 28 nations have also committed to removing deforestation from the international trade of food and other agricultural products like soya, palm oil, cocoa, etc. Such industries cause forest loss by cutting down trees to make enough space for crops to grow or the animals to graze. Also, over 30 big financial companies have promised to end investment in various activities that are linked to deforestation. These include giants like Schroders, Aviva, and Axa.
Professor Simon Lewis, a researcher of global change science at the University College London, said: “It is good news to have a political commitment to end deforestation from so many countries, and significant funding to move forward on that journey.”