As organisations and governments across the world celebrate the #InternationalDayofForests, we must look at what needs to be done if the COP26 pledges to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 are to be achieved.
First, leaders need to act on the increasing evidence of the vital role of indigenous peoples and other local communities in protecting tropical forests. While the announcement of a new fund to advance community land rights marked an important milestone, this still represents only a fraction of annual climate funding or subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
Second is the need to rethink the root causes of tropical forest loss. The presentation of preliminary results from an FAO study into the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation in the Congo Basin started to unpick the long-held assumptions about the role of subsistence farming, while two new RFUK reports have pointed to the growing impact of infrastructure development and so-called ‘selective’ logging. These must now be reflected in future interventions.
Thirdly, we must address the issue of our own consumption in the Global North. Here, COP26 fell well short of the UK government’s stated aim of ‘keeping 1.5 degrees alive.’ Instead of stronger regulation to decarbonise our economies, we saw a rebranding of controversial carbon offset schemes that too often fail to reduce forest loss while enabling polluting countries and companies to avoid having to make necessary emissions reductions at source.
The best way to preserve rainforests is through empowering the traditional peoples within, to protect the ancestral lands and natural resources that they depend on for lives, livelihooods, and long-term well-being. Through rights-based models such as Community forests, tropical forests are protected whilst making communities the drivers of their own development, and helping to achieve climate justice at a global level. As such, they have positive implications not just for the communities concerned, but also – because of the link between deforestation and climate change – for the whole world.