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Nature and climate protection pledges pile up at COP26, amid ghosts of past failures

by Alister Doyle | @alisterdoyle | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 6 November 2021 19:10 GMT

Newly planted mangrove trees are seen in Bebatu, a remote area near Tarakan, North Kalimantan province, Indonesia, October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

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Dozens of nations pledged to do more to protect nature and overhaul farming - but past promises often have not been met

By Alister Doyle

GLASGOW, Nov 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Dozens of nations pledged on Saturday to do more to protect nature and overhaul farming at the COP26 U.N. climate talks, amid misgivings about past failures.

Agriculture, deforestation and other changes in land use account for about a quarter of humanity's planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions, making reforms vital to safeguard nature and feed a rising global population without stoking global warming.

"Nature and climate are interlinked, and both our people and our surroundings are facing the very real impacts of rising temperatures," Alok Sharma, the British president of the Glasgow summit, told a news conference.

He said that 70% of tropical corals, which are nurseries for fish, would be lost if temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

"If we get to two degrees they are all gone," he added.

Temperatures are already up nearly 1.2C and the overriding goal of the Glasgow negotiations is to keep alive hopes of limiting warming to 1.5C, the toughest goal set by almost 200 nations in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Britain said 45 nations were making pledges to safeguard 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 investment which would help spur innovation such as developing crops resilient to droughts, floods and heatwaves that could benefit "hundreds of millions of farmers".

Campaigners said needed shifts to agriculture to curb emissions and protect food security should have a larger share of the global spotlight.

'SEXY' FARMING

"We need to shine a light on climate justice, and we need to make food and farming sexy," said Idris Elba, a British actor and goodwill ambassador for the U.N.'s International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Vanessa Nakate, 24, a climate justice advocate from Uganda, warned that in her country, "we're watching farms collapse," with floods, droughts, heatwaves and swarms of locusts making hunger more widespread.

Among pledges on Saturday, Canada said it would allocate about $1 billion - out of $5.3 billion previously pledged for climate finance - to "nature-based climate solutions" in developing countries over the next five years.

Britain said it would give a 500-million-pound ($675 million) boost to protect more than 5 million hectares - equivalent to more than 3.5 million football pitches - of tropical rainforests across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Nations including Peru and Cameroon said they would increase support for small-scale farmers, while Nepal and Madagascar said they would join efforts to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and oceans by 2030.

But other similar past pledges have fallen short.

A U.N. report last year found that the world had failed to fully meet any of the 20 global goals it set in 2010 to protect biodiversity.

Those ranged from phasing out harmful agricultural subsidies to limiting the loss of forests and raising sufficient finance for developing nations.

British officials said there was hope the Glasgow pledges would be different. They pointed to plans to track pledges, as well as the promises of cash and innovative technologies, such as high-yielding, drought-resistant crops.

Britain said 28 nations that are big consumers of deforestation-linked commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil and cocoa had joined a Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) roadmap 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 go from bold statements to real implementation," said Yadvinder Malhi, a professor of ecosystem science at the University of Oxford.

Britain grabbed headlines this week by announcing a range of new alliances, such as one by more than 40 nations to phase out coal and another by major investors with $130 trillion at their disposal to boost the green economy.

"Important as these announcements may be, they are not legally binding," noted Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a Kenya-based climate and energy think-tank.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle ; editing by Laurie Goering : (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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