To save the climate, a hundred countries, some of which have been singled out for intense deforestation such as Brazil, solemnly pledged to preserve forests, this Tuesday at COP26, a promise deemed too soft by defenders of the environment .

On the agenda of the major climate conference on Tuesday is also an agreement to reduce emissions of methane, one of the major greenhouse gases along with CO2, by 30% by 2030. According to an American official, more 90 countries representing two-thirds of the world economy, including "half of the 30 main emitters of methane", have signed up to this agreement.

The "cathedrals of nature"

Lungs of the planet along with the oceans, forests play a vital role in the fight against climate change by absorbing a significant portion of the billions of tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year by human activities. In order to stop their degradation and restore these "cathedrals of nature", the leaders of more than 100 countries sheltering 85% of the world's forests, including the boreal forest of Canada, the Amazon rainforest in Brazil or the tropical forest of the basin of the Congo, adopted a declaration on forests at the UN climate conference in Glasgow.

The initiative, which will benefit from public and private funding of $ 19.2 billion (16.5 billion euros) over several years, is essential to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to +1, 5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the event.

"We cannot cope with the devastating loss of habitats and species without fighting climate change, and we cannot cope with climate change without protecting our natural environment and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples," he said. he said Tuesday.

“Protecting our forests is the right thing to do not only to fight climate change, but also for a more prosperous future for all,” he added.

Fear of failure

Forests are currently receding at the "alarming rate" of 27 football pitches every minute, according to the UK presidency of COP26. And according to the NGO Global Forest Watch, deforestation in the world has accelerated in recent years: the destruction of primary forests was up 12% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Among the signatories are China, Russia, France, Australia and the United States. The new pledge against deforestation echoes the New York Declaration on Forests of 2014, when many countries, businesses and indigenous peoples pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030.

But for NGOs like Greenpeace, the 2030 target highlighted on Tuesday remains far too distant and gives the green light to "an additional decade of deforestation".

Global Witness has expressed fears that similar “failures of previous engagements” will be repeated, due to insufficient funding and uncertain follow-up to the promise given.

The Brazilian government, criticized for its environmental policy, announced on Monday more ambitious objectives to reduce CO2 emissions - 50% less by 2030 instead of 43%, and carbon neutrality in 2050 - and to fight against deforestation.

Reduce investments linked to deforestation

But since the start of the term of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, the Brazilian Amazon has lost 10,000 km2 of forest per year, compared to 6,500 km2 annually in the previous decade. A neighboring country, Colombia has decided not to wait until 2030 and to protect 30% of its territory from 2022, its president Ivan Duque said on Tuesday.

As part of the forestry announcement, 28 countries representing three quarters of global trade in raw materials that could threaten forests, such as palm oil and cocoa, also signed a declaration to act more equitably and transparent.

More than 30 financial institutions such as Aviva or Axa have committed to no longer invest in activities linked to deforestation.

Currently, almost a quarter (23%) of global greenhouse gas emissions come from activities such as agriculture or the forestry industry.

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