Environmental organizations applaud the efforts of Cop28 to safeguard the environment.
Environmental organizations have praised the addition of biodiversity and a target to reduce global deforestation by 2030 in the United Arab Emirates’ agreement reached at Cop28. The document also includes favorable language regarding the involvement of Indigenous communities.
Some people believe that the agreement could integrate nature and climate more effectively, instead of viewing them as distinct topics. However, there are concerns that the vague wording on fossil fuel emissions may not effectively address the issue of global warming, which is causing forests to become more vulnerable to drought, fire, and disease. This could result in carbon-rich ecosystems becoming sources of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the planet’s rising temperatures.
Under the agreement struck in Dubai on Wednesday, governments are obliged to consider the natural world and carbon stores such as forests while developing their next round of nationally determined contributions to the Paris agreement. The new plans, which countries including the US and China said they would produce, are due before Cop30 in the Brazilian Amazon in 2025 and need to be calibrated towards limiting global heating to 1.5C.
Although there has been some advancement in acknowledging the significance of the environment and nature-based solutions, there is still disagreement about how to financially support conservation efforts. Discussions at Cop28 regarding carbon markets resulted in a lack of agreement.
The UAE agreement highlights the significance of preserving, safeguarding, and reviving nature and ecosystems in order to reach the temperature goal set by the Paris agreement. This will involve stopping and reversing deforestation and forest degradation by 2030, as well as protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems that serve as natural sources and storages of greenhouse gases, and promoting biodiversity conservation in accordance with the current UN targets for this decade.
The recent biodiversity pact, ratified in Montreal in December, consists of 23 pledges. These pledges encompass goals such as safeguarding 30% of the Earth’s surface for the preservation of natural habitats by the end of the 2020s, revamping $500 billion (£410 billion) worth of harmful environmental subsidies, and rejuvenating 30% of the world’s depleted ecosystems. It will be necessary for governments to take these commitments into account when creating their updated climate strategies.
The agreement in UAE also acknowledges the necessity of increased financial support for nature and implementation, taking into account the most reliable scientific findings as well as the knowledge and wisdom of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Jennifer Morgan, the previous leader of Greenpeace who is currently leading the German climate delegation, praised the “excellent wording” regarding nature and forests.
According to Claudio Angelo from the Brazilian Climate Observatory, this is the first instance of the 2030 deforestation target being included in a UN agreement. This upgraded the previous voluntary language in the Glasgow declaration on forests to a more binding commitment among 200 countries.
Angelo was motivated by the clear connection to the previous year’s Kunming-Montreal global diversity framework. He believes that this has potential because funding for biodiversity could also be utilized for climate protection and vice versa. He also mentioned that the two conventions needed to collaborate and now there is a way to facilitate that.
Jennifer Skene, the policy manager for natural climate solutions at the Natural Resources Defense Council, had a favorable reaction. She noted that the text clearly highlights the need to stop and reverse the deterioration of forests, in addition to deforestation, by 2030. This emphasizes the urgent need for global, multi-sectoral efforts to preserve high-quality forests in order to achieve the objectives of the Paris agreement. Skene also acknowledged that the international community is exposing the truth about industrial logging and is creating a way forward for forest protection that prioritizes fairness and responsibility.
The director of Rainforest Foundation Norway, Toerris Jaeger, expressed some reservations about the UAE agreement, stating that it has both positive and negative aspects. “While there is potential for halting deforestation in the agreement, the lack of progress on reducing fossil fuel usage poses a threat to the rainforest,” he commented.
Sonia Guajajara, the first Indigenous people’s minister of Brazil, celebrated the recognition of Indigenous communities’ role in protecting forests and fighting the climate crisis. She shared on social media that it was the first time Indigenous people had directly participated in a dialogue with Brazilian negotiators. She also reminded followers that despite only making up 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous territories hold 82% of the world’s protected biodiversity. Guajajara expressed excitement for Cop30, which will take place in Belém, an Amazonian city, in 2025. She stated that President Lula has emphasized the importance of the Amazon speaking to the world, and she remains optimistic that this Cop will be crucial in addressing these issues.
The negotiators faced obstacles from Bolivia, a country that is rapidly deforesting due to government support for industries such as soya beans, cattle, logging, and mining. In private discussions, the representative from Bolivia argued that developing countries, including his own, require more economic assistance. He expressed concern over the goal of eliminating deforestation in all countries, stating that each country faces unique circumstances. He questioned the feasibility of achieving zero deforestation without any financial support.
At the conference, there were also concerns raised about the effectiveness of carbon markets in protecting and restoring forests. The lack of transparency and clear guidelines raised worries that polluters could receive credits of questionable worth. This topic is anticipated to be an ongoing discussion at future conferences.
This year, fears have been raised of a new “scramble for Africa” after tracts of forest larger than the UK were sold off to a UAE firm in a carbon offsetting deal before Cop28. The mechanism was intended for use in country-to-country trading for the Paris agreement. But talks collapsed with no agreement over carbon markets in Dubai, leaving their role uncertain.
Axel Michaelowa, a carbon markets expert at the University of Zurich, said the lack of agreement was “a disaster”, adding: “The Paris rules could become a benchmark for international quality in the carbon markets, but if we keep kicking the can down the road every year, sometime nobody will believe in it any more. That means the carbon cowboys have another year to ride through the prairie.”
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