By Hope Nda
One of the developments from the ongoing climate change summit, COP26, holding in Glasgow, Scotland, is the pledge by over 100 world leaders to end deforestation by 2030.
Cameroon’s representative at the summit, External Relations Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella, alongside 30 other African leaders, also signed the commitment which was taken on Monday, November 1.
In the agreement document, signed by 124 countries, blogs and entities, the leaders vowed to “commit to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.”
The agreement is being backed by a US Dollar 19-billion (FCFA 10.7 trillion) pledge by 12 countries and private companies. Also, more than 30 financial institutions vowed to stop investing in companies responsible for deforestation, according to The New York Times newspaper.
The “Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use”, aimed at saving more than 13 million square miles of forest, was also ratified by DR Congo, Brazil and Indonesia – which harbor 85 percent of global forest.
The declaration comes amid rising levels of deforestation, with 258,000 square km of forest destroyed globally in 2020, according to the World Research Institute’s deforestation tracking initiative, Global Forest Watch.
Speaking at the summit, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said, by ending deforestation, countries will be able “to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian”. He described the move as a “landmark” commitment.
According to US President, Joe Biden, America is “going to work to ensure markets recognise the true economic value of natural carbon sinks and motivate governments, landowners and stakeholders to prioritise conservation.”
The initiative will tackle global warming, which is caused by toxic emissions that warm up the atmosphere, causing a rise in global temperatures and therefore climate change. The World Resource Institute states that forests absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions which are responsible for climate change.
The agreement, according to non-governmental organisations, will be difficult to implement if nations fail to enforce national laws banning companies and financial institutions from activities that fuel deforestation.
To avert global warming, the leaders pledged to limit global average temperatures to 1.5°C and this, they said, could only be achieved by encouraging afforestation.
“We urge all leaders to join forces in a sustainable land use transition. This is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals, including reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, noting that the science shows further acceleration of efforts is needed if we are to collectively keep 1.5°C within reach,” stated the leaders in the commitment.
“Together we can succeed in fighting climate change, delivering resilient and inclusive growth, and halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation.”
Like in many parts of the world, the world’s second largest forest area, the Congo Basin – which Cameroon is part of – is being threatened by urbanisation and illegal logging of wood mainly be foreign companies.
According to Info Congo – a data-driven organisation that monitors the Congo Basin – wildlife and indigenous communities in Cameroon’s east and South region are suffering the effects of this illegal deforestation.
“Indigenous people living in forest communities are now facing the worrying consequences of illegal logging when their medicine sources and farms are devastated,” Info Congo stated in a release published in April this year.
In September 2020, Cameroon’s Forestry and Wildlife Minister, Jules Doret Ndongo, suspended 20 wood processing units in the Littoral region for illegal logging and for failing to comply with statutes.
But such moves have not abated the deforestation spree that has continued in Cameroon’s forests. The world leaders’ commitment at COP26 is expected to safe Africa’s remaining forest areas which are being exploited by Chinese and Western companies.
It is hoped that the commitment will not remain dormant afterwards like the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests which became powerless afterwards amid rapid deforestation around the world.