CoP26 pledge to combat deforestation by 2030 must not be just another greenwashing exercise

We welcome the announcement today (2 November) from 105 countries at the UN CoP26 climate change summit pledging to combat deforestation by 2030 – recognising the importance of forests, biodiversity and the people who rely on them is a good first step.

In addition, the Global Forest Finance Pledge of $12 billion from the wealthiest countries, which has included the issue of trade and consumption as well as specific provision to combat forest crime, is a welcome move.

(c) EIA

The Glasgow Declaration must do more than the failed pledges of the past, such as the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests to halve deforestation by 2020 and to halt it by 2030. Likewise, the finance pledge must prove to be more than previous financial commitments which have not stopped or reversed deforestation.

We have an opportunity right here and now to go further. We note that $1.7 billion has been further pledged to advance indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ forest tenure rights. This is crucial as these people are often the best stewards of forests, yet their rights are often poorly recognised in national legislation, if at all.

While these pledges show political will at this time, it will be the ability to deliberate with all beneficiaries that will ensure an equitable approach. And this process must include those whose whole lives depend on the forest.

EIA Forest Campaign team leader Faith Doherty interviewing community elders in Indonesia (c) EIA

EIA has been investigating environmental crime for more than 35 years and our work relies on evidence-based information from the field. Working with partners and bringing our information to decision-makers will continue to be at the heart of our work.

Transparency and tackling corruption are key to addressing the illicit trade in both timber and agriculture commodities. Ensuring just laws are legislated and are not used to undermine the rights of those who rely upon forests and the land for their survival is non-negotiable.

While consuming countries are pledging to tackle deforestation and address forest risk commodities within their supply chains, transparency and accountability for our consumption is crucial. For this to work, civil society and the communities who are the eyes and ears must not be forgotten – they add credibility to any proposed new system to regulate the trade in sustainable timber and commodities.

A group of Indonesians, mainly children, in a forest

Illegally sourced wood affects communities who rely on forests for their livelihood (c) EIA

Producer countries such as Indonesia face multiple trials.

“Pledges such as this have been made at every CoP – some are better, some are not,” said Mardi Minangsari, President of Kaoem Telapak, our partner in Indonesia.

“The main question is how these pledges will be turned into real action. How will they be implemented, especially in countries such as Indonesia where the policy and reality on the ground regarding land use, forests and livelihood of people that depend on them are far from what has been pledged in international platforms.”

Indonesia has frequently counted the planting of new plantation forests, while continuing to cut down natural existing forests, when reporting overall forest loss. This will not limit climate change. Natural old growth forests hold much more carbon and biodiversity than newly planted forests can.

The UK and US have drafted legislation that will tackle forest risk commodities in their supply chains, while the EU is due to provide its legislative proposals in the coming weeks. These must be strong and meaningful regulations that support the preservation of forests and the recognition of land tenure rights.

Faith Doherty, EIA Forests Campaigns Leader, said: “This cannot be another greenwashing exercise of tick boxes and weak certification that does not include real accountability.

“The core issue is transparency and the inclusion of civil society and communities who are not just part of the system, but who must be protected and listened to when providing solutions.”