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World leaders commit to halting deforestation by 2030

The first major deal of COP26 has been made, with over one hundred world leaders pledging to halt and reverse deforestation within the next decade.

It’s all about the green – and no, I’m not talking money.

We know trees – rainforests in particular – are important to keep our planet’s ecosystem in balance. They provide us with air to breathe, eliminate toxins from the atmosphere, and absorb CO2 down into their roots, storing it within the surrounding soil.

Widespread foliage is essential for human and animal life, but large-scale deforestation has been devastating for indigenous communities that depend on them for their livelihoods, as well as for overall biodiversity.

At this year’s climate summit, world leaders have pledged to turn it all around.


Why does deforestation take place?

Halting deforestation will not be easy and it will inevitably result in serious changes in the way we eat, even for those of us who are vegetarian or vegan.

This is because rainforests such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil’s Amazon have primarily been cleared to make room for agriculture and animal farming.

Soybeans, cocoa, and palm oil are a few crops that sit in abundance on the edge of what remains of these rainforests.

Essential for producing tofu, non-dairy milk, edamame, nut butters, vegetable oils, beauty products and more, these versatile ingredients can probably be found somewhere in your home right now.

But most of all, trees are being cleared to make way for industrial farmed cattle and their feed. At least 45 million hectares (450,000km) of the Amazon rainforest has been transformed into cattle pasture.

So what have world leaders promised at COP26?

A mammoth total of £14bn in public and private funds have been pledged towards stopping deforestation activities, with £1.1bn going towards protecting the world’s second largest rainforest along the Congo Basin.

A further portion of the funding will be sent to developing countries to restore damaged land, help protect against wildfires, and to support indigenous communities who rely on their natural surroundings for survival.

On top of this, 28 countries have committed to remove deforestation processes from global supply chain of food. This will mean more sustainably produced foods,

And finally, over 30 of the largest financial conglomerates – including Aviva, Schroders, and Axa – have promised to end their investment activities linked in deforestation.

Can money alone solve the problem?

Well, the executive director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, thinks not.

‘Without tackling the drivers of destruction it’s like whistling in the wind to think cash alone will work,’ he said.

He pointed out the main driver of deforestation directly, saying: ‘The industrial meat industry, like its counterpart in the fossil fuel sector, needs to come to an end. Every climate scientist is saying we need to eat less meat. We won’t save the forests until politicians stop ignoring that message.’

Indeed, cohesion amogst100 leaders on the very first day of the summit is a great way to get started.  But critics have already pointed out that getting to the root of the problem (pun intended, sorry) and a legislation will be needed to end and reverse deforestation by the 2030 target.

Bet you’ve noticed a theme emerging around this year’s COP, eh? More policy less promises, please!