Countries need to speed up forest protection and financing, but still have foot on brakes
At COP27, Lula raised hopes, and momentum on ending deforestation by 2030 was maintained, but concrete action was lacking and more speed on implementation and financing is needed.
The presence of Brazilian president-elect Lula da Silva at COP27 raised hopes that the tide can be turned on deforestation in Brazil and elsewhere. Decisions and announcements made at COP27 maintained momentum on ending deforestation by 2030. But as an “Implementation COP”, COP27 fell short of what is needed to make meaningful progress towards that target.
Breakthrough agreement on funding for climate damage
COP27 delivered a breakthrough agreement to establish a fund for responding to loss and damage for vulnerable countries that are hard-hit by climate disasters. This fund is meant to cover the immediate costs of climate-fuelled events, such as increasingly strong storms, floods and droughts. While negotiations on several of the more critical elements of the fund were postponed to next year, it was nevertheless a historic accomplishment, since finance for loss and damage has been a demand set forth by poor nations since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was first agreed upon in 1992.
COP27, held in Egypt, was dubbed an “Implementation COP” by the Egyptian presidency ahead of the convention. This meant that it had to deliver progress on the goals of the Paris Agreement and on ambitions laid out in last year’s COP, including the target of ending deforestation by 2030.
Rainforest Foundation Norway entered COP with a clear expectation that countries need to deliver on this promise by speeding up implementation and financing. An assessment released just before COP27, showed that we are not on track to meet this target, with Brazil in particular moving in the wrong direction.
The election of Lula da Silva to the presidency of Brazil has given the world hope that this will change, and his participation and speeches at COP27 reinforced this hope. His key messages were to make the conservation of the Amazon a top priority for his government, commit to zero deforestation by 2030 and establish a new department for Indigenous affairs.
Lula also met with the Norwegian Minister of Environment, Espen Barth-Eide. They both committed to a speedy reestablishment of the Amazon Fund, a fund created for the protection of the Amazon, with current assets exceeding 500 million USD. The fund was frozen after deforestation in the Amazon surged and cooperation was discontinued under president Jair Bolsonaro.
Forest partnership moves forward, but more speed is needed
For the first time, the decisions agreed upon at COP27 had a section dedicated to forests, emphasizing that all countries must act to protect the remaining forests as part of their efforts to curb climate change. This contributed to maintaining the momentum on forest conservation that was achieved at COP26 through the Glasgow Declaration on Forests, where 145 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030. However, a simple reference to COP15 held next month on the Convention of Biodiversity to underline its importance in addressing the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises, as proposed by some countries, was completely erased from the decisions of COP27.
To meet the 2030 target, implementation needs to speed up urgently. To address this, a group of 26 countries launched the Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership to accelerate the implementation of this pledge. This launch was welcomed by RFN:
«There is a momentum for rainforest protection now that we haven’t seen previously. 140 countries have committed to stopping rainforest loss, there are more pledges to finance rainforest management, and we are seeing increased political will in rainforest countries to stop deforestation. This desperately needed will to save what is left of the rainforests is great, but if we are to succeed, we need to move from pledges and alliances to real and concrete action", says Anders Haug Larsen, Advocacy and Alliances Director at RFN.
He is hoping that the new alliance will make it harder to avoid fulfilling rainforest commitments:
«Forest and Climate Leader’s Partnership must ensure that this new collaborative platform for international commitments does not become a tool to hide the lack of real action. The first task for this partnership is making sure that large agribusinesses stop deforestation immediately».
Despite the announcements made to speed up delivery on pledges, developed countries have still not met their promise to deliver USD 100 billion in climate finance annually from 2020 and beyond. During COP27, developed countries also pushed back against defining a 2025 target for climate finance.
Against this backdrop of broken promises, it was encouraging to see that the donors behind the Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLC) pledge are on track to meet their target. The IPLC pledge, made at COP26, is a pledge to deliver USD 1.7 billion to support Indigenous peoples and local communities in obtaining their land rights and protecting their forests. However, a report published by the IPLC donor group showed that a very low share of this funding reached IPLC organizations themselves, only 7%.
“We are glad to see that donors recognize that the current funding is not fit for purpose and therefore not benefiting Indigenous and local communities as much as it could. We expect donors to intensify their work on improving this. IPLCs have made considerable investments in building capacity and structures to handle donor funding and are now waiting for the donors to support this,” says Toerris Jaeger, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Soy and cattle companies set out roadmap in the wrong direction
As part of the implementation of the Glasgow Declaration on Forests, a group of twelve major soy and cattle companies issued a roadmap on how they’ll work toward halting deforestation in their own supply chains. This roadmap does not deliver on the promise to stop agricultural-driven deforestation. Instead, it explicitly allows soy companies to continue deforestation of the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco ecosystems until 2025.
“Setting a cut-off date for deforestation to 2025 is basically a message to their suppliers to continue and speed up deforestation. This is irresponsible and should be met by massive sanctions from customers with soy in their supply chain”, says Nils Hermann Ranum, Head of the Deforestation-Free Markets Program at Rainforest Foundation Norway.
In addition to a near-catastrophic soy plan, the roadmap's plan for deforestation-free cattle production is also described as "weak", with an unambitious and poorly defined timeline. Another prominent weakness is the roadmap's complete lack of commitment to reducing the impact on non-forest ecosystems.
Net-zero guidance sets clearer expectations for investors and businesses
A high-level expert group commissioned by the UN Secretary-General issued new guidance to countries, businesses and investors who are making net-zero pledges and plans, to avoid these pledges contributing to greenwashing. The guidance makes clear that investors who have net-zero targets must stop investment in businesses linked to deforestation or the destruction of natural ecosystems by 2025. This includes eliminating agricultural commodity-driven deforestation from their investment and credit portfolios.
“The Net-Zero guidance provides a welcome clarification that responsible investors need to cut their ties to deforestation by 2025. In Norway, this means that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund needs to strengthen their targets and plans to have a deforestation-free investment portfolio by 2025", says Nils Hermann Ranum, Head of the Deforestation-Free Markets Program at Rainforest Foundation Norway.