Fossil fuel spending far exceeds COP26 funding for forests
Forests once covered the United States and Europe. Humans slaughtered them, turning the land into farms, towns and cities. In many other places in the world – like South America, the Congo Basin, Southeast Asia – people have done much less of this.
Now, as the world looks down on the barrel of a climate catastrophe and a worsening biodiversity crisis, the forests that remain must be left standing for the good of all.
As with fossil fuels, countries that have gotten richer by cutting down their own forests are asking others to avoid doing the same, leading on Tuesday to massive pledges by more than 100 countries to protect the world’s forests.
When it comes to climate change, forests, peatlands and other carbon-rich ecosystems can be a blessing or a curse. Leave them and they suck the carbon dioxide that heats the planet out of the atmosphere. Drop them, burn them, or drain them, and they release greenhouse gases, which makes it all worse.
“Can we first develop without deforestation? asked Ana Toni, executive director of the Brazilian Institute of Climate and Society, a climate advocacy group. âThis is the big challenge. That is why we need an international effort.
This is of course money, and the amounts announced at the United Nations climate summit on Tuesday seem huge: over $ 20 billion from governments and the private sector.
But consider it in context.
âThe financial announcements we heard in Glasgow are welcome but remain modest compared to the huge private and public flows, often in the form of grants, that lead to deforestation,â said Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute, a research group. .
Do you want to bet an estimate of how much governments alone invest in harmful things? They spend about $ 500 billion per year support fossil fuels and potentially damaging agricultural practices. Climate activists have laughed at these subsidies for decades.
The majority of government commitments to forests will support protection, restoration and sustainable management work in countries eligible for overseas development assistance. Other elements trust the market, creating mechanisms for giant companies like Amazon to help protect the Amazon rainforest. BlackRock, Bayer, NestlÃ© and Unilever are among the companies competing. In addition, more than 30 financial institutions have pledged to stop investing in companies responsible for deforestation. And a new set of guidelines are paving the way for eliminating deforestation from supply chains.
Critics, however, expressed disappointment that the deforestation pledge was not binding and that the supply chain measures did not include more enforcement mechanisms.
The package includes another aspect: $ 1.7 billion for indigenous peoples and local communities. Research shows that these groups have done a better job than the rest of the world in taking care of forests and biodiversity.
Tuntiak Katan, general coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and a member of the Shuar people in the Ecuadorian Amazon, welcomed the new initiative but questioned the wisdom of throwing money at a system he sees as broken.
âIf this funding does not work directly and side by side with indigenous peoples, it will not have the necessary impact,â he said.