Good COP/Bad COP: What does the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use really mean?

9 November 2021

Good COP/Bad COP: What does the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use really mean?

Much of the world’s media has reacted cynically to world leaders’ entourages flying to Glasgow to discuss ways to end to global heating, at the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). Decades of promises to cut emissions and end deforestation have come to naught, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson – until recently a climate sceptic – now seems to finally believe in the science. Against this backdrop, on 2 November 2021, Johnson announced a 120+ country coalition on working to end deforestation by 2030.

Activists such as Jo Blackman from the NGO Global Witness were less than impressed, pointing out that “previous commitments by governments, companies and banks have all failed to stop deforestation and it remains to be seen if and how today’s new pledges will be different.”

The Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC) welcomed the declaration, but were critical about how little Indigenous Peoples and local communities were involved in the decisions leading up to it.

Peg Putt of the Environmental Paper Network was also cautious: “The UK has led on this important declaration but is also the world’s largest biomass burning nation.” She pointed out that for the declaration to work, the United Nations would need to start differentiating between forests and plantations and start measuring emissions from burning wood for energy.

Fern’s take on the Declaration is best summed up in this tweet:

“1993 Aichi Declaration pledged to halve the rate of forest loss by 2020
2014 New York Declaration pledged to reverse deforestation by 2030
2015 Sustainable Development Goals pledged to halt deforestation by 2020
Yet from 2001 to 2020, there was a global 10% DECLINE in tree cover.
Walk the walk.” 

In the walking spirit, most announcements were backed up by funding pledges (as in the case ofthe EU, for example). However, remarkably little is known about how this money will be spent and how signatories will ensure that it gets to the front lines and doesn’t end up funding a spree of offsetting. The GATC  said they are concerned that money is unlikely to reach Indigenous and local communities unless they are included in the implementation. At COP26, they are instead asking for direct financing to Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Interestingly, the declaration includes some important countries which had not signed before, such as Brazil, China and Russia. On the other hand, non-binding declarations have repeatedly proven to mean nothing much at all in the past. It also seems that at least one country’s willingness to sign was overstated.

Fern will have a full round up of COP26’s promises on forests once the conference closes on 13 November, but its impact will be judged in months and years to come.

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Category: Forest Watch

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