Leaders pledge to protect forests and stop methane leaks at COP26


GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – World leaders pledged to protect the Earth’s forests, cut methane emissions and help South Africa wean itself off coal at the United Nations climate summit on Tuesday – as part of a series of agreements intended to prevent catastrophic global warming.

Britain hailed the commitment of more than 100 countries to end deforestation over the next decade as the conference’s first major achievement in the Scottish city of Glasgow, known as COP26, but the experts noted that such promises had already been made and broken.

The UK government said it had received pledges from leaders representing more than 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among them are several countries with massive forests, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.

More than $ 19 billion in public and private funds have been pledged to this plan.

“With today’s unprecedented commitments, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as the conqueror of nature and instead become its guardian,” said the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Let’s end this great chainsaw massacre by getting conservation to do what we know it can do, which is to create long-term sustainable jobs and growth.”

Experts and observers have said fulfilling the pledge will be key to limiting climate change, but many noted that such promises have been made in the past – with little effect.

“Signing the declaration is the easy part,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Twitter. “It is essential that it is implemented now for people and the planet.”

Alison Hoare, senior researcher at policy think tank Chatham House, said world leaders pledged in 2014 to end deforestation by 2030, “but since then deforestation has accelerated in many countries.” .

Forests are important ecosystems and are an essential means of absorbing carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere. But the value of timber as a commodity and the growing demand for agricultural and pastoral land is leading to widespread and often illegal logging of forests, especially in developing countries.

“We are delighted to see the indigenous peoples mentioned in the forest agreement announced today,” said Joseph Itongwa Mukumo, a Walikale indigenous and activist from Congo.

He called on governments and businesses to recognize the effective role indigenous communities play in preventing deforestation.

Luciana Tellez Chavez, environmental researcher at Human Right Watch, said the deal contains “a lot of really positive elements.”

The EU, Britain and the US are making progress in restricting imports of goods linked to deforestation and human rights abuses, “and it’s really interesting to see China and Brazil signing a statement that suggests it’s a goal, ”she said.

But she noted that Brazil’s public statements do not yet match its national policies and warned that the deal could be used by some countries to “green” their image.

The Brazilian government has been eager to project itself as a responsible steward of the environment in the wake of increasing deforestation and fires in the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal wetlands that have sparked global outrage and threats of divestment in recent years. But critics warn his promises should be viewed with skepticism, and the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a strong supporter of the Amazon’s development.

Brian Rohan, forestry manager at the environmental law charity ClientEarth, said that to be successful, engagement “needs teeth.” He said that “declaring ‘legal’ deforestation exempt is a false solution.”

Amazon’s founder – the company, not the rainforest – separately announced that his philanthropic fund is spending $ 2 billion to fight climate change through landscape restoration and transformation of farming systems.

“We have to conserve what we have, restore what we have lost and cultivate what we need in harmony with nature,” said Jeff Bezos.

About 130 world leaders are in Glasgow for what host Britain sees as the last realistic chance to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels – the the goal that the world set in Paris six years ago.

Further warming over the next few decades would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and dramatically increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather conditions, scientists say.

On Monday, leaders heard stern warnings from officials and activists about the dangers. A day later, the UK government said the commitments made by governments so far were “very encouraging”.

But Johnson spokesman Max Blain cautioned: “We are not complacent. This is by no means a done deal.”

On Tuesday, the administration of US President Joe Biden launched a plan to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming. The announcement was part of a larger effort with the European Union and other countries to reduce overall methane emissions around the world by 30% by 2030.

Tackling methane flaring and leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines – the goal of the Biden Plan – is seen as one of the easiest ways to cut emissions. Reducing the methane produced by agriculture, in particular by belching cows, is more difficult.

Helen Mountford, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute, said the deal “sets a solid floor in terms of the ambition we need globally.”

Separately, the United States, Britain, France and Germany announce plan to provide funds and expertise to help South Africa phase out coal, a major source of gas emissions Greenhouse effect.

South Africa, which gets about 90% of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, will receive around $ 8.5 billion in loans and grants over five years to deploy more renewable energy.

The announcements were not part of the formal negotiations taking place in Glasgow, but rather a reflection of the efforts of many countries to achieve previously agreed targets.

But campaigners say the world’s biggest carbon emitters need to do a lot more. The Earth has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). Current projections based on projected emission reductions over the next decade predict that it will reach 2.7 ° C (4.9 ° F) by 2100.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg told a rally outside the high-security climate facility that the speech inside was “blah blah blah” and would not add much .

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