Dozens of nations pledged on Saturday to do more to protect nature and renovate agriculture during the UN’s COP26 climate talks, amid concerns over past failures.
Agriculture, deforestation and other changes in land use account for about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions that heat the planet, making reforms vital to save nature and feed a growing world population without fueling global warming.
“Nature and climate are linked, and our people and our environment are both facing the very real impacts of rising temperatures,” Alok Sharma, UK president of the Glasgow summit, told a press conference. .
He said 70% of tropical corals, which are nurseries for fish, would be lost if temperatures rose 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
“If we get to two degrees, they are all gone,” he added.
Temperatures are already rising by nearly 1.2 ° C and the overarching goal of the Glasgow negotiations is to keep hopes of limiting warming to 1.5 ° C, the most difficult target set by nearly 200 nations in the Paris climate agreement in 2015.
Britain said 45 countries pledged to protect nature on Saturday, including the United States, Japan, Germany, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Vietnam, the Philippines, Gabon , Ethiopia, Ghana and Uruguay.
Sharma said the pledges included $ 4 billion in public sector investments that would help spur innovation, such as the development of crops resistant to droughts, floods and heat waves that could benefit “hundreds of people. million farmers “.
Campaigners said the changes needed to agriculture to reduce emissions and protect food security should receive more global attention.
“We need to shed some light on climate justice and make food and agriculture sexy,” said Idris Elba, British actor and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Vanessa Nakate, 24, climate justice activist in Uganda, warned that in her country “we are watching the farms collapse”, with floods, droughts, heat waves and swarms of locusts making hunger hunger more widespread.
Among pledges made on Saturday, Canada announced it would allocate about $ 1 billion – of the $ 5.3 billion previously pledged for climate finance – to “nature-based climate solutions” in developing countries over the next five years.
Britain has said it will give a boost of £ 500m ($ 675m) to protect more than 5m hectares – the equivalent of more than 3.5m football pitches – tropical rainforests in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Countries including Peru and Cameroon have said they will increase support for smallholder farmers, while Nepal and Madagascar have said they will join efforts to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans. by 2030.
But other similar engagements have failed.
A UN report last year found that the world had not fully achieved any of the 20 global goals it set for itself in 2010 to protect biodiversity.
These ranged from phasing out harmful agricultural subsidies to limiting forest loss and raising sufficient funds for developing countries.
British officials said there was hope Glasgow’s promises would be different. They highlighted plans for monitoring commitments, as well as promises of innovative technologies, such as high yielding and drought resistant crops.
Britain said 28 countries that are heavy consumers of deforestation-related commodities such as beef, soybeans, palm oil and cocoa have joined a roadmap on forests, the Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) launched in February this year.
FACT says it promotes sustainable land use as a step to unlock investments, create jobs and protect forest livelihoods.
“The next challenge is to move from bold statements to real implementation,” said Yadvinder Malhi, professor of ecosystem science at the University of Oxford.
Britain grabbed the headlines this week announcing a slew of new alliances, such as one by more than 40 countries to phase out coal and another by major investors with $ 130 trillion at their disposal to boost the green economy.
“As important as these announcements are, they are not legally binding,” noted Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a climate and energy think tank based in Kenya.