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: U.S., U.K. and powerful nations get serious about protecting the forests believed vital to hitting Paris climate target

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The world’s leading economies and key developing nations have a new focus heading into climate-change meetings later this year — to take seriously a voluntary pledge to preserve and restore the forests that help soak up the emissions causing global warming and that provide the biodiversity that will keep an ever-swelling population healthy and fed.

Global leaders gathering for the United Nations General Assembly and key climate officials on Wednesday announced a more binding collaboration intended to accelerate implementation of an unprecedented forest commitment made at the global body’s Conference of Parties, or COP26, last year. At that time, over 140 countries vowed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation, while acknowledging they’ll have to deliver sustainable development and promote an inclusive rural transformation. 

At the time of the COP26 pledge, countries that are both key developers of forest land for agriculture and lumber, and those that are heavily forested
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themselves, were on board, at least via voluntary pledge. That included included Brazil, Canada, Russia and Indonesia.

Known as the Forests & Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP), the agreement is said to enhance cooperation on delivery of last year’s commitments, to scale ambition and to find innovative solutions to ongoing problems.

The agreement will unite action by government, business and community leaders, and shine a spotlight on global progress at the upcoming Egypt-hosted COP27 and every year up to 2030. 

“We know forests are a fundamental component of the solution set we need to deploy if we are to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,” said John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for Climate. “The [pact] provides us with a new opportunity to spur even greater action to addressing our shared challenges with committed partners, and to holding ourselves accountable for meeting our commitments.”

Participating countries will meet annually to enhance collective efforts to maximize the contribution of forests
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and sustainable land use to  global and national climate goals.

Efforts will include cooperation related to high-integrity carbon markets for forests, building robust forest economies that contribute to a net-zero [emissions] world, securing and protecting applicable forest tenure rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and scaling efforts to conserve and sustainably manage high integrity forests, a joint statement said.

Carbon markets remain under scrutiny at these global meetings given a history of low volume, double-counting and other lightly regulated infractions.

These latest actions are seen as fundamental to adapting to climate change and have the potential to deliver up to 10% of the emissions reductions needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, while securing global biodiversity, economic prosperity and food supplies.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest are lost each year.

Wednesday’s fortified pledge was backed by over $19.2 billion in public and private funds, and commitments to shift global systems of production, supply chains, finance and land tenure in favor of forests and forest-dependent people. Wealthier nations historically have collected the natural resources that can be abundent in developing parts of the world. But the repercussions of climate change are more acutely felt in developing regions, including rising sea levels and heightened natural disasters.

“There is no path to fighting climate change and building a healthy future that does not involve forests,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday, highlighting what he says is a working partnership with indigenous communities and the heavily-forested nation’s commitment to plant 2 billion trees over the coming decade.

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