The U.S., China and more than 100 other nations signed onto a pact to end deforestation by 2030 at the ongoing United Nations climate summit, the U.K. announced.
“Conserving our forests and other critical ecosystems is indispensable — an indispensable piece of keeping our climate goals within reach as well as many other key priorities that we have together: ensuring clean water, maintaining biodiversity, supporting rural and Indigenous communities, and reducing the risk of the spread of disease,” President Joe Biden remarked on Tuesday.
“Our forests are also nature’s carbon capture, cycling CO2 out of our atmosphere,” he added.
Overall, the signatories represent more than 85% of the world’s forests, the British government said earlier in the day. The nations will commit $12 billion to protect forests in addition to the $7.2 billion of private investment.
The deforestation and land degradation commitment came at COP26, the latest high-level United Nations climate change summit where leaders hope to hash out a series of climate agreements. Biden traveled to the conference with several top administration officials this week.
However, environmental groups and even the head of the UN warned that the pledge wasn’t binding and nations who signed on could easily renege on the outlined commitments.
“Signing the declaration is the easy part,” tweeted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “It is essential that it is implemented now for people and planet.”
Alison Hoare, a researcher at the Chatham House think tank, noted that deforestation “has accelerated across many countries” since a similar pledge was made in 2014, showing the downfalls of a non-binding agreement, the Associated Press reported.
“It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding,” Greenpeace Brazil Executive Director Carolina Pasquali said in a statement. “Meanwhile the Amazon is already on the brink and can’t survive years more deforestation.”
Countries agreed to cut deforestation in half by 2020 as part of the 2014 pledge mentioned by Hoare, according to Greenpeace. But forest loss has actually increased over the last several years.
The U.S., meanwhile, launched the Forest Finance Risk Consortium (FFRC) and the Forest Investor Club, according to the Department of State. The FFRC will consist of experts who will assess whether investment portfolios are friendly to anti-deforestation efforts while the investor club will be a network of public and private financial institutions supporting “sustainable, climate-aligned outcomes in the land sector” through new capital.
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