In the first major agreement of the 2021 U.N., more than 100 world leaders agreed to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030. Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, Scotland.
The Glasgow Leaders' Declaration of Forest and Land Use, which covers 85% of the world's forests, provides $19.2 billion in public funding and private financing to stop the illegal and legal destruction of forestland.
The deal was signed by leaders such as President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping. The signatories have yet to decide how to enforce the agreement. Scientists warn that prior legally non-binding deforestation agreements, such as the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests (which pledged to reduce deforestation by half by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030), were not able to achieve their goals.
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Professor of global change science at University College London Simon Lewis said that it was good to see a commitment from many countries to stop deforestation and substantial funding to make the journey forward. He said that the world had been there before with the 2014 declaration, which failed to slow down deforestation.
Jo Blackman is the head of forest policy and advocacy at Global Witness. She said that although the pledge's signatories are impressive, it could reaffirm past failures if it lacks teeth in the form legal commitments.
Forests are important ecosystems and can store and absorb carbon dioxide, which is responsible for around 80% of climate change-related greenhouse gases. According to the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, 23% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are caused by deforestation or land clearing.
According to a study published in Global Environmental Change, the main drivers for land clearing are pasture for cattle (41%), commercial cropsland to grow palm oil or soy (18%) and paper and wood logging (13%).
Global Forest Watch has compiled satellite data that shows that Brazil was responsible for one-third the global tropical deforestation in 2019. Brazil and Indonesia were responsible for 52% of the 20850 square miles (54,000 km) of forestland lost globally.
The Amazon Basin's cattle herd has grown from 5 to 70-80 million cows since the 1960s. (Image credit to Brasil2 via Getty Images.
Bolsonaro stated that his government is committed to ending illegal deforestation "by 2030" at the COP26 news conference.
According to Human Rights Watch, many Bolsonaro regime actions actually make it easier to seize and cut down rainforests via legal means. The Amazon is on the verge of collapse. Live Science reported that a July 2021 study found that the Amazon is now producing more carbon than it absorbs. A second study published in October 2020 showed that up to 40% of Amazon's rainforest could be at risk of becoming savanna.
There are many challenges ahead but reforestation success is possible. One NASA satellite-based study has shown that the world has become more greener in recent decades, despite the loss of precious tropical rainforest. This is due in large part to the efforts of China and India which have contributed 42% and 42% respectively to Earth's greening in the last 20 years.
The pledge's new funding will provide $1.7 billion to help Indigenous communities protect rainforests and secure their land rights. Global Witness reports that one-third of the 227 people who died while protecting ecosystems in 2020 were indigenous communities.
Original publication on Live Science