11/29/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/30/2023 01:30
After more than 30 years of countries' failed promises, lapsed deadlines, and policy gamesmanship in the face of the relentless erosion of the world's forests, the global community is calling for accountability.
With international leaders gathered in Dubai for the annual climate conference (COP28), more than 100 groups from around the world have released a letter urging them to establish a Glasgow Declaration Accountability Framework (GDAF) to promote "shared accountability that fosters comprehensive, common, and equitable action to protect and restore forests globally."
Signed by organizations from 31 different countries, including Climate Action Network (CAN) International, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and Climate Focus, the letter echoes African environment ministers' declaration of support for the GDAF earlier this year in the face of growing concern that countries are, once again, not positioned to deliver on their promises.
COP28 in Dubai marks two years since the establishment of the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use ("Glasgow Declaration"), committing 145 countries to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. The Glasgow Declaration was a monumental achievement, aligning the international community around comprehensive action to safeguard the world's climate- and biodiversity-critical forests.
Two years later, however, the Glasgow Declaration has yet to find much life beyond the page. In 2022, primary forest loss in the tropics increased, reaching unprecedented rates in some countries. In northern forests, degradation from industrial logging remained high. Instead of a celebration, this anniversary is a sobering reminder of how little time is left-for delivering on this agreement, and for forests and climate.
The call for a GDAF comes from a recognition that countries' inaction is not an aberration, but the result, as the letter states, of "a foundational inequity between the Global North and the Global South." From its inception, forest governance has been a one-way mirror, capturing the devastation of the tropics while the Global North remains a spectator, obscured from scrutiny.
As a result, forest policy has failed to encompass some of the most significant causes of forest impacts. In fact, the focus on tropical deforestation has obscured that industrial logging in northern forests is the single largest driver of tree cover loss in the world, with the third- and fourth-highest rates of this loss in Canada and the United States, respectively. Canada clearcuts more than 1.3 million acres of forests annually, much of this in irreplaceable primary and old-growth forests. Sweden clearcut nearly one-fourth of its unprotected old-growth forests between 2003 and 2019 and, at current rates, will wipe out the last of these forests by 2070.
The result of this paradigm has been thirty years of policy failure, defined by pledges and commitments that, either in text or in practice, leave half the world unaccountable. This inequity has hampered international mobilization for decades, dooming past agreements, like the New York Declaration on Forests, to obsolescence.
Ultimately, as the letter articulates, the Glasgow Declaration's avoidance of the same fate will depend on building a system of international equity and truly global cooperation.
The GDAF, as the letter outlines, can achieve this through three pillars for fostering accountability. The first, "Transparency," commits countries to annual, country-led reporting on rates of deforestation and degradation and to addressing global data gaps, particularly around the loss of primary and old-growth northern forests.
The second pillar, "Facilitation and Finance" unites countries around commitments including the elimination and redirection of harmful subsidies and long-overdue public finance for supporting forest protection in the tropics, as well as Indigenous-led protection around the world.
Finally, "Alignment" would address the significant disparities in expectations and responsibilities between Global North and Global South, establishing common standards and shared understandings, and facilitate joint, synergistic efforts addressing both the climate and biodiversity crises.
In building stronger forest governance, the letter notes, the GDAF will also support the marketplace amid growing expectations that it ensure sustainability for forests. As investors and new laws like the EU Deforestation Regulation set increasingly robust standards for supply chains free of deforestation and forest degradation, the GDAF will create the transparency and marketplace certainty to drive buy-in and additional progress.
At COP28, world leaders are taking stock of progress on addressing climate change. On forests, like fossil fuels, the verdict is resoundingly sobering. Through establishing the GDAF, countries can avoid the pitfalls that have plagued forest policy for decades, enabling open-eyed decision making and governance to ensure that, this time, at the eleventh hour, the world will deliver.