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COP26 on deforestation: Grounds for cautious optimism but implementation is key

AUTHORS: Michael Nicholson

IEEP cautiously welcomes the decision of over 100 world leaders at COP26 to commit to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

As we know though, the ‘devil is often in the detail’ and implementation is far harder than mere words alone. Optimism can be found in the fact that countries representing over 85% of the world’s forests made this pledge including most of those in areas that WWF identified as the most significant deforestation fronts in the world (WWF 2021). Some notable countries in southern Asia have not signed this pledge to date such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia. In addition to this, the mobilisation of cash – $12bn of public funds alongside $7.2 billion of private investment, is sorely needed but surely only a fraction of the true sums required.

Addressing deforestation on the ground is the big challenge and deforestation pledges have come and gone before. Both regulatory and non-regulatory measures will be required. 

IEEP’s work on tackling deforestation shows how there are multiple ways of reducing deforestation and some are better than others but all have limitations. Consumers have a role to play too. 

At IEEP we developed sustainability criteria focused on the land use impacts of production of commodities such as cocoa, soy, maize, palm oil, beef and dairy. A solid chain of custody and traceability of international supply chains are essential as is the role of trade agreements and supporting processes in tackling deforestation and forest degradation. 

There is no single, silver bullet but concerted cooperation across multiple fronts is required. Embedding this pledge in policy across all of Government(s) is what is needed.

© Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

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