02 November 2021

World leaders pledge to stop deforestation by 2030 – here’s what we can all do to help

02 November 2021

Forests were high on the agenda on the second day of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow and, in the first major deal to come from the event, more than 100 world leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

The UK Government has promised to back the cause with £8.75 billion of public funding and £5.3 billion in private investment, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained that it would support the Cop26 overall goal of restricting global warming to 1.5C through the absorption of carbon emissions by forests.

The land covered by the agreement spans the northern forests of Canada and Russia to the tropical rain forests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo –  more than 13 million square miles.

While that all sounds very positive, experts are warning that they need to see action. A similar pledge – the New York Declaration on Forests promising to halve tropical deforestation and restore 150 million hectares of land by 2020 – was signed in 2014. Most countries didn’t follow through and a progress report found that the annual rate of global deforestation actually increased by 43% between 2014 and 2018.

So, while world leaders and environmentalists battle on in the fight against deforestation, is there anything you could be doing too?


1. Educate yourself

Nina Siemiatkowski, founder and CEO of giving platform Milkywire (milkywire.com) which funds climate change projects, says: “In countries like the UK, where large parts of the nation do not reside near, or have connection to, fragile ecosystems like the Amazon, there tends to be a personal connection missing from experiencing how these rainforests help the world.

“However, the popularity of BBC Nature programmes (and a national fascination with David Attenborough) means there is no excuse for not understanding the pivotal role that these ecosystems play in the health of our planet.

“Just because we don’t see how these environments are impacted on a day-to-day basis does not provide an excuse for us to be ignorant; we must educate ourselves.”

2. Buy second-hand furniture and upcycle

Joe Eisen, executive director of Rainforest Foundation UK (rainforestfoundationuk.org), says one of the most important things we can do is to address our consumption.

“Instead of buying wood products, recycle or upcycle old ones, and try to support products that come from areas that are managed and protected by local and indigenous communities,” he says.

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3. Go paperless

One of the simplest things we can all do is use as little paper as possible, and in this day and age, it’s easier than ever. If there’s no need to print something out, don’t.

Eisen says: “Going paperless at home and work should be commended – every little action contributes to the greater good. We should try to use electronic emails and reduce printing where we can.”

4. Limit products containing palm oil

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees and, according to Rainforest Foundation UK, palm oil has become one of the fastest growing monocrops in the tropics.

Eisen says that although palm oil is a higher-yielding oil than some (even worse) alternatives, we should avoid it and be reading up on where products containing it come from.

“Try to limit the amount of palm oil you use, but if you do use it, you need to ensure it hasn’t come from rainforest areas, that its environmental impact is limited, and it’s derived from areas where communities have land rights,” he says.

Global youth climate strike in Glasgow in September (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

5. Demand more from the Government

Eisen says: “A lot of it is about holding our government to account to ensure legislation is enforced.” Products that enter the UK must be deforestation free, so we can be assured they’re not deforesting or negatively impacting the human rights of local and indigenous communities that live in these areas, he adds.

“So, there’s definitely some citizen engagement [needed] with the government, to ensure our procurement and our laws protect against these things.”

6. Be wary of brand promises

Rainforest Foundation UK aren’t always advocates of certification. “They can give the sheen of [something] being sustainable when in reality, it can sometimes greenwash various operations,” Eisen believes.

“The problem is, we’ve had lots of corporate commitments around deforestation and palm oil and these sorts of things, and unfortunately they have proven to be fairly ineffective.

“What we need is less consumption and more regulation – so there’s at least implications for deforestation and palm oil entering the UK market.”

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7. Donate to restoration projects

If you don’t know where to send your money, giving platform Milkywire (milkywire.com) links you up with fully audited, high-impact non-profits working across the world to save the planet. Some of the projects you could donate to through the platform are Miti Alliance Ltd – planting five million trees in Kenya, Ecological Balance in Cameroon – who plant 500 native trees each year, and ARBIO Peru which fights to save the thousand-year-old “mother trees” of the Amazon rainforest from illegal logging.

Siemiatkowski founded Milkywire to “bridge the gap between the people across the world who want to help but don’t know how, and these grassroots organisations”.

She says: “Individual donation is imperative to ensure these changemakers can remain focused on the work they are doing. No donation is too small and every action counts. Real change is born from the people on the ground getting their hands dirty battling our planet’s challenges: grassroots organisations, researchers [and] conservationists. Grassroots organisations often run hand-to-mouth, with unreliable finances stealing focus from the work itself.

“Yes, deforestation is an enormous problem facing our planet, but it should never be underestimated how powerful we are when we come together. It only takes a few hundred people to fund a whole project or an entire organisation’s work.”

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