Over the past two weeks, world leaders and Ministers have been in Glasgow at the COP 26 meeting, working on new agreements to tackle climate change. I was there for four days over last weekend to lead some of the discussions on forests and nature recovery and took part in sessions on forestry and sustainable agriculture.
We have made some good progress. More than 120 world leaders signed up to commit to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, in an agreement known as the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use. Those leaders represent over 90% of the world’s forests – from the northern forests of Russia to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Crucially, it is also being backed up by £8.75 billion of public funds and £5.3 billion of private investment. Forests are the lungs of our planet, absorbing around a third of the global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year. We have been losing them at a terrifying rate. This has to be the moment to reverse this trend, protect our forests and restore degraded land.
We have put nature at the heart of our COP presidency, and we have worked closely with countries around the world on this agenda. For example, Costa Rica has done incredible work in restoring natural ecosystems and it is a case study of how economies can benefit from the revival of nature and biodiversity.
Against a backdrop of the most significant and ambitious commitment to forests in a generation, we asked countries to commit to radical action on nature, food, and farming and help people adapt to the impacts of climate change. Of course, land can be a great source of emissions, or a great carbon sink, depending on how we manage it.
We have secured a consensus around a number of key actions contained in a new roadmap around the sustainable commodities trade, which will put the world on a pathway to ensure that the link between deforestation and the production and trade of agricultural commodities does not put pressure to forests. We have already seen 28 governments endorse a statement committing to deliver this.
It is something that I have been working on for the last eighteen months since the UK has co-chaired the dialogue with Indonesia. We’ve had the open and honest conversations needed with countries that represent over 90% of global exports of palm oil, 80% of cocoa and 85% of soya – as well as the major consumer markets of these commodities.
It is encouraging that we are seeing countries committing to transform agriculture and food systems. We have also seen countries coming forward to make other commitments with 90 per cent of the world’s economy now committed to getting to “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century. As the Prime Minister said earlier this week, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead, become its custodian. Let’s hope that a final agreement offers some good progress.