COP26: More than 100 countries sign up to end and reverse deforestation by 2030

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger reports on the significance of the pledge to end and reverse deforestation within the next decade

Over 100 world leaders have pledged to ending and reversing deforestation by 2030, a historic deal that covers 85% of Earth's forests.

On the second day of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Boris Johnson said it was time to end the "devastating" loss of trees, which he said act as the "lungs of our planet".

The land covered by the agreement spans the northern forests of Canada and Russia to the tropical rain forests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – an area of more than 13 million square miles.

"Let's end this great chainsaw massacre by making conservation do what we know it can do, and that is deliver long-term sustainable jobs and growth as well," Prime Minister Johnson said.

Downing Street said the pledges were backed by £8.75 billion of public funding with a further £5.3 billion in private investment.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

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It includes £1.47 billion from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for land restoration in Africa - double what he previously committed just a day earlier at an event with the Prince of Wales.

The billionaire said he'd been inspired to bolster his environmental efforts after flying into space and realising just how fragile the Earth is.

"I was told that seeing the Earth from space changes the lens through which you view the world, but I was not prepared for just how much that would be true," he told leaders at the climate change summit.

"Looking back at Earth from up there, the atmosphere seems so thin, the world so finite and so fragile... climate change gives us a powerful reason to invest in nature."

Prince Charles called for the "re-engineering" of the world's financial and economic system to disincentivise deforestation and reward countries for the pursuit of a "forest-positive economy".

The deforestation commitment has been welcomed by campaigners and experts, in particular the recognition of the role of indigenous people in protecting forests.

“We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests, these great teeming ecosystems, three trillion-pillared cathedrals of nature that are the lungs for our planet,” he urged.

“What is most significant about this declaration is not just the range of countries coming together, but also that we’re working in partnership with the private sector, with philanthropists, with indigenous people in those communities to address the economic drivers of deforestation.”

US president Joe Biden (left) is at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this week. Credit: AP

There were warnings that commitments needed to be delivered on, and standing forests must be protected, as well as there being a focus on restoring forests.

Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, said tackling deforestation is an essential component of keeping global warming below 1.5C.

“It is good news to have a political commitment to end deforestation from so many countries, and significant funding to move forward on that journey,” he said, adding that it was particularly welcome that indigenous peoples are finally being acknowledged as key protectors of forests.

“However, the real challenge is not in making the announcements, but in delivering synergistic and interlocking policies and actions that really do drive down deforestation globally.

“Careful monitoring of the delivery of each initiative is essential for success,” he said.

'In the time it takes you to say deforestation, a football pitch sized patch of forest is being destroyed' - Nina Hossain looks at the impacts of chopping down trees:

The prime minister backed the move, saying it would support the COP26 goal of restricting global warming to 1.5C through the absorption of carbon emissions by forests.

“These great teeming ecosystems – these cathedrals of nature – are the lungs of our planet,” he was expected to tell the event.

“Forests support communities, livelihoods and food supply, and absorb the carbon we pump into the atmosphere. They are essential to our very survival.

“With today’s unprecedented pledges, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian”.

Labour has also welcomed the commitment to reverse deforestation but said the target is eight years too far away.

"We need deforestation to end now because if we don't see real changes in practice in this decisive decade, I'm afraid we won't be able to lower our carbon emissions as a planet to the point that will avert a climate crisis."

He added that deforestation in places like Brazil must be "brought to an end, not by 2030, but immediately".

The UK is committing £1.5 billion over five years to support the forests pledge, including £350 million for tropical forests in Indonesia and £200 million for the Leaf Coalition.

Britain is also contributing £200 million to a new £1.1 billion international fund to protect the Congo Basin.

Roberto Waack, Brazilian business leader and biologist and visiting fellow at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said: “The deal is a significant milestone on the road to protecting our precious forests and tackling the climate crisis.

“The deal combines action to stop deforestation with support for indigenous peoples who are the forest’s staunchest defenders. It also includes action to establish stronger sustainable forest economies.

“Today we celebrate – tomorrow we will start pressing for the deal to be delivered”.