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Researcher Torsten Krause comments on the World leaders’ pledge to end deforestation by 2030

Great Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia. Photo.
Another decade of deforestation means more biodiversity lost, greenhouse gas emissions and forest degradation, fragmentation and conversion to other land-uses.Photo: Unsplash

On the second day of COP26, more than 100 global leaders, representing 85% of the world's forests, pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade. The Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use will cover forests totaling more than 13 million square miles.

Sustainability researcher and deforestation expert, Torsten Krause, at Lund University for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) comments on the pledge and underline the importance of turning it into real and meaningful policies that can be implemented, enforced and controlled.

– At a first glance it is a positive outcome and shows that forests are given more international attention, which is important and much needed to mitigate climate change and halt biodiversity loss. But again, the pledge aims for 2030, which means another decade of deforestation and forest degradation, another decade of biodiversity loss and additional green house gas emissions, and further forest fragmentation and the destruction of indigenous and local people’s land. Also, one has to be cautious to not forget the details and how these pledges are supposed to be turned into real and meaningful policies that can be implemented, enforced and controlled. 

The elephant in the room – consumption of deforestation risk commodities 

– We really must address the real drivers of deforestation that are hidden in global supply chains and the way we produce commodities that are traded globally. As long as consumption and demand-side issues are not addressed we are just displacing deforestation to other countries or displacing biodiversity loss and degradation to other ecosystems. This is not a solution then, just a shift of the problem. In the end, the really important elephant in the room is consumption of deforestation risk commodities (palm oil, soy, beef, sugarcane, cocoa, coffee, oil and minerals, illegal drugs like cocaine, but also infrastructure projects such as roads and hydropower projects.).

As long as consumption and demand-side issues are not addressed we are just displacing deforestation to other countries or displacing biodiversity loss and degradation to other ecosystems. This is not a solution then, just a shift of the problem.

Consideration of indigenous groups

– In addition, there is a long history of conflicts between conservation, land rights, and access to and use of natural resources. In the past conservation initiatives and policies, although well intended, directly and indirectly affected the livelihoods and rights of indigenous groups and local communities. The rights of these groups must be respected and any policies must bring all affected stakeholders to the table in a meaningful and inclusive way and not just for show, which is all too often still the case. Indigenous peoples and local community rights must be carefully considered when it comes to the implementation of these ambitious pledges. Oftentimes protection and conservation comes at a cost that is borne by specific groups, for instance local forest dwelling communities, indigenous groups etc., which might lose access to important forest resources and loose the right to make a living from using forests, for example through selling sustainably harvested timber. As always, the devil is in the detail. The pledges must turn into effective policies and, crucially, the money that is earmarked for their implementation must lead to just and fair distribution of benefits for people on the ground. This must happen fast, very fast, there is no time to keep talking and producing another lost decade.

Oftentimes protection and conservation comes at a cost that is borne by specific groups, for instance local forest dwelling communities, indigenous groups etc., which might lose access to important forest resources and lose the right to make a living from using forests...

About Torsten Krause

Torsten Krause, researcher at LUCSUS. Photo.

Torsten Krause is an associate senior lecturer at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, LUCSUS. His expertise is in:

  • Forestry and Forest Governance
  • Conservation Science
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Ethnobiology
  • Environmental Justice

Read more about Torsten Krause