COP26 Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use – Media comments, praise and concerns by Focali members

SVT Aktuellt with Focali member Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science Kew Science and University of Gothenburg

COP26 Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use – Media comments, praise and concerns by Focali members

At the time of writing 141 countries have endorsed the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use with six effort areas such as “Conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration”. Are we witnessing a paradigm shift in global forest policy and genuine commitments to address the drivers of deforestation? Will this new declaration succeed in areas where previous commitments have failed? Read the compiled reactions on the declaration, including both praise and doubts, shared by Focali members in media during COP26.

Toby Gardner, Senior Research Fellow Stockholm Environment Institute, SEI and Director of Trase: The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use is a welcome statement of ambition to halt and reverse deforestation. While this pledge is backed by an unprecedented number of countries, with 12 billion dollars of funding commitments, it remains to be seen whether it will succeed where similar previous commitments have failed. It is essential we learn from past mistakes and give this Declaration much needed credibility by seeing progress on the ground”.  

Gardner welcomed the announcement, especially because it includes countries that make up 90% of world´s forests, including Brazil, Indonesia, DRC and China. Importantly since it comes with 12 billion dollars of funding commitments from 12 countries, as well as large chunk (1.7 billion) of funding directly for indigenous groups. However he reminds us about the similar commitments that have been made before, especially the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests. “It is critical that we now see action and progress that can give these commitments credibility. We need to see concrete evidence that the lessons of the last decade have been learned.” In addition he raised concerns on the level of funding that comes with the declaration since it is; “only a fraction of what it will take to safeguard forests and restore degraded land across the world, and only a small portion of the finance, from public and private sector, including through subsidies that are driving deforestation.”

Finally he stressed the importance of ensuring long-term success of the pledge. From the declaration it is “not clear how protecting forests and restoring degraded land can be ensured for the long-term, nor what role carbon markets can play, or how to balance the use of carrots and sticks.”

Toby Gardner was interviewed by the Swedish Newspaper “Dagens Nyheter” 2021-11-02 for the article: Avtal om skogsskydd ifrågasätts av forskare

Madelene Ostwald, Senior Scientist Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development, GMV and Chalmers University of Technology:
In an interview in the Swedish Newspaper SvD 2021-11-02: 100 länder lovar skydda skogen – detta innebär det, Ostwald stressed the need to understand and address the drivers of deforestation: “The activities causing deforestation are generating enormous amount of money. Which makes it very expensive to stop deforestation and instead compensate the actors that then should refrain from deforestation.”

When asked if the countries will be able to fulfil their promises Ostwald responded: “The ambition is nice and it's great to go together. On the other hand, it is a political issue where it is easy to agree. Wanting to preserve forests has seldom been problematic.”

Torsten Krause, Senior Lecturer, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, LUCSUS: Krause shared his dual reactions in a LUCSUS news item and similar to other Focali members interviewed in media outlets he brought up addressing drivers of deforestation as the “elephant in the room” that is the main barrier to find meaningful and viable policies on:

“At a first glance it is a positive outcome and shows that forests are given more international attention, which is important and much needed to mitigate climate change and halt biodiversity loss. But again, the pledge aims for 2030, which means another decade of deforestation and forest degradation, another decade of biodiversity loss and additional greenhouse gas emissions, and further forest fragmentation and the destruction of indigenous and local people’s land. Also, one has to be cautious to not forget the details of how these pledges are supposed to be turned into real and meaningful policies that can be implemented, enforced, and controlled.

We really must address the real drivers of deforestation that are hidden in global supply chains and the way we produce commodities that are traded globally. As long as consumption and demand-side issues are not addressed we are just displacing deforestation to other countries or displacing biodiversity loss and degradation to other ecosystems. This is not a solution then, just a shift of the problem. In the end, the really important elephant in the room is consumption of deforestation risk commodities (palm oil, soy, beef, sugarcane, cocoa, coffee, oil and minerals, illegal drugs like cocaine, but also infrastructure projects such as roads and hydropower projects).”

Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science Kew Science and University of Gothenburg: Antonelli was interviewed, directly from COP26 after the announcement of the declaration, in the Swedish television news program Aktuellt (video no longer available but see head photo from program.) He was in addition interviewed by other media outlets in Sweden, Brazil and the UK as an interview in BBC Radio (9.05 min into the program). Antonelli further shared comments via Kew Science “Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew responds to Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests”:

 “We applaud the commitment of world leaders to halt and reverse deforestation and other forms of ecosystem degradation by 2030, in parallel with restoring lost habitats to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. However, the devil is in the detail: reforestation must follow best scientific practice - planting the right tree in the right place - and protection must start with the most biologically valuable ecosystems such as the Brazilian rainforests, which I grew up exploring.

Halting deforestation has been promised before but failed hugely. We can’t afford repeating that: two in five plant species now face extinction - this is our last window of opportunity. What we need now is delivery, and enough details to hold our leaders to account. Science shows how nature can bring long-lasting benefits to climate, biodiversity and humanity and we scientists are ready to help.”

Read the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use here.


Reflections on other themes by members at COP26 in Glasgow:
These were a few of the comments by Focali members on the new Declaration. Other Focali members attended COP26 and followed different themes such as Stephen Woroniecki, Post-Doc Linköping University who attended COP26 for two weeks with a focus on Loss and Damage. See some of his reflections on COP26 via his Twitter account.

Another Focali member, frequently interviewed in media on the climate negotiations, is Björn-Ola Linnér Professor Linköping University. He Was interviewed in this DN article before the end of COP26 and then stated that: "The meeting here in Glasgow is already successful. It may not provide solutions that are in line with the 1.5-degree goal, but it is far above the expectations that existed before the meeting."


In photo from left; Björn-Ola Linnér, Tilde Krusberg, Marie Francisco, and Stephen Woroniecki at Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, Linköping University. Photo by Stephen Woroniecki

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