More than 100 world leaders have promised to end deforestation by 2030. Despite the disappointing end of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow a few days ago, in which measures agreed are unlikely to prevent the global temperature to rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius (the threshold most scientists said should not be crossed if we want to avert global disaster), there have been some positive agreements. Leaders agreeing to stop deforestation is one of them.
This pledge — which Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the US and the UK have signed — includes almost £14bn ($19.2bn) of public and private funds destined to stop and even reverse deforestation in the world. Some of this funding will go to developing countries to restore damaged land and support indigenous communities, which is good.
But Prof Simon Lewis, an expert on climate and forests at University College London, told the BBC that previous similar agreements, like the 2014 New York declaration, did not work. He said that it “failed to slow deforestation at all.” This agreement, though, involves more countries and more funds, and a heightened sense of urgency, so hopefully, it will do better.
Cutting trees contributes to climate change because forests absorb vast amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2. But a worse gas is methane, which mostly comes from animal agriculture. However, by preventing deforestation, we also reduce animal agriculture, as most of the land cleared for it is used either to raise grazing “livestock” or to grow food to feed it. Ecologist Dr. Nigel Sizer said to the BBC: “One of the biggest causes of forest loss in Brazil is to grow soybeans, much of which goes to China and Europe for animal feed for pigs and chickens.”
The first significant international agreement on climate change was signed in Paris in 2015. It is a legally binding international treaty adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21. However, under the present agreed targets, the world is on track for warming of 2.7C by 2100, which according to the UN would result in climate catastrophe. The lack of more concrete steps sooner, the last-minute watering down of the wording regarding phasing off coal burning, and the failure in solving the breaking of previous agreements on funding developing countries, are worrying reasons for disappointment and skepticism. But in the Glasgow Climate Pack signed by almost 200 countries, we can see some incremental progress besides the agreement on deforestation. They also agreed on methane targets for the first time (cutting emission levels by 30% by 2030), and the leaders have agreed to meet again next year in Egypt to ensure the implementation of all decisions, rather than waiting the traditional five years. Hopefully next year they can do better, and take animal agriculture more seriously. Perhaps next year they could begin talking about humanity’s blood footprint, not only Carbon footprint, affecting the lives of trillions of animals on the planet. Perhaps next year there will be visionary leaders who will start seeing the vegan world as the ultimate target to achieve.