Cop26: Funding for protecting nature and shift to sustainable farming

Coalition of countries pledges movement on loss of forests, soil damage and ecosystems

The UK is to spend £500m help protect five million hectares of rainforests from deforestation, ‘an area equivalent to over 3.5 million football pitches’. File photograph: Getty

The UK is to spend £500m help protect five million hectares of rainforests from deforestation, ‘an area equivalent to over 3.5 million football pitches’. File photograph: Getty

 

Accelerated action and investment to safeguard nature and shift to more sustainable farming methods have been announced at Cop26 by 45 countries, led by the United Kingdom.

The alliance has committed to addressing loss of forests, damage to soils and quickening destruction of ecosystems that play a critical role in absorbing carbon and cooling the planet.

It is the second big announcement focussed on nature enhancement at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow. On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders pledged to halt deforestation by the end of the decade and committed $12 billion (€10.4 billion) in public funds to that effort; the private sector committed another $7.2 billion.

Approximately one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land use. Farmers’ livelihoods are also under increasing pressure as changes in climate affect productivity, the alliance noted. It also committed to helping farmers adapt and to make the world’s food system more resilient for the future, as “more sustainable practices are essential”.

This initiative involves leveraging more than $4 billion of new public sector investment into agricultural innovation, including development of climate-resilient crops and regenerating soil. It is also intended make these techniques and resources affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of farmers.

The UK is to spend at least £3 billion (€3.5 billion) of its international climate finance on nature and biodiversity and include a new £500 million package to help protect five million hectares of rainforests from deforestation, “an area equivalent to over 3.5 million football pitches”.

The funding will create thousands of green jobs, including in sustainable agriculture and forestry, throughout rainforest regions and generate £1 billion of green private-sector investment to tackle global warming worldwide, it added.

Britain’s secretary of state for environment George Eustice said: “To keep 1.5 degrees alive, we need action from every part of society, including an urgent transformation in the way we manage ecosystems and grow, produce and consume food on a global scale. We need to put people, nature and climate at the core of our food systems . . . to farm more sustainably, create space for nature on their land and reduce carbon emissions.”

The UK is to contribute up to £40 million of international climate finance to establish the global centre on biodiversity for climate “to address critical research gaps . . . and improve livelihoods in developing countries”.

It is also to support United States-UAE-led Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (known as AIM4C) “which will mobilise over £4 billion of new global public sector investment in agricultural innovation, research and development over the next five years with contributions from over 30 countries for public and private sector as well as knowledge partners”.

This initiative is being supported by Ireland.

Sustainable trade

Separately, 28 governments, representing 75 per cent of global trade in key commodities that can threaten forests – such as palm oil, cocoa and soya – have come together through the “Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (Fact) Roadmap” created at Cop26 to deliver sustainable trade. They also intend to reduce pressure on forests, support smallholder farmers and improve transparency of supply chains.

Justin Adams, director of the World Economic Forum’s Tropical Forest Alliance, said the Fact process had created new momentum to work on issues of trade, forests and finance in an integrated way.

“Bringing these governments together – from the global south and north – to tackle the issue of commodity production and deforestation head on is a very significant development. Continued dialogue after Cop26 will be critical to progress,” he added.

Coinciding with the announcement, 100 high-profile UK companies have agreed to work towards halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030 and commit to getting “nature positive”. Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose pledged to cut their environmental impact across climate, deforestation and nature in a “retailers commitment for nature” with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conservation organisation.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said: “The climate and nature crisis are two sides of the same coin and we can’t turn things around unless we transform our food system, which is destroying forests and habitats in some of our most fragile landscapes.”

The commitment from leading UK supermarkets to halve the food retail sector’s environmental impact by 2030 “will help millions of families make their weekly shop greener and help reverse the loss of nature”, she said.