Efforts to keep forests standing, nevertheless, have struggled. One effort, recognized in the Paris climate accord, seeks to pay forested nations for reducing tree loss, but progress has been disappointingly slow. Governments have made similar promises before, without making much progress in stemming the felling of forests for farming and commercial lumber. This year, scientists found that parts of the Amazon have begun emitting more carbon than they store.
A United Nations plan announced in 2017 made similar commitments. An agreement in 2014 to end deforestation by 2030, the New York Declaration on Forests, set goals without a means to achieve them, and deforestation continued. The new announcements bring in more countries and focus on putting guidelines in place.
The participating governments promised “support for smallholders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who depend on forests for their livelihoods and have a key role in their stewardship.”
Tuntiak Katan, the general coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and a member of the Shuar people in Amazonian Ecuador, praised the effort in Glasgow but questioned throwing money at a system he sees as broken.
“If this financing doesn’t work directly, and shoulder to shoulder, with Indigenous peoples, it’s not going to have the necessary impact,” he said.
China is one of the biggest signatories to the deforest declaration, but the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, did not attend the climate negotiations in Glasgow. Over the past decades, China has suffered heavy losses of forest as its population and industry have grown. But in recent decades, the country has pledged to regrow forests and expand sustainable tree farming.
By China’s estimate, forests now cover about 23 percent of its landmass, up from 17 percent in 1990, according to the World Bank. Some research has questioned the scale and the quality of that expanded tree cover, but the Chinese government has made expanded reforestation a pillar of its climate policies, and many areas of the country are notably greener than they were a couple of decades ago.