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Carbon Copy: Will lofty goals made on day 3 of COP26 be met or are they just hot air?

More than 100 countries committed to halting and even reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
More than 100 countries committed to halting and even reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030.PHOTO: AFP

GLASGOW - Day three of COP26 was marked by a flurry of pledges, with world leaders committing to lofty goals such as ending deforestation by 2030.

Under the Glasgow leaders' declaration on forests and land use, the heads of more than 100 countries committed on Tuesday (Nov 2) to halting and even reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

Together, the signatories account for about 85 per cent of the world's forests. Singapore did not sign.

Experts whom The Straits Times spoke to said the declaration was significant as signatories include nations with large swathes of forests - such as Brazil and Russia - as well as nations like China whose trade and investment have had significant impact on the forests of the world.

Yet, they say the devil is in the detail - especially since the declaration signalled commitment but without an embedded accountability mechanism.

Protecting and restoring forests have long been regarded as a key part of the global climate puzzle.

Trees are one of nature's best tools to soak up carbon dioxide emissions, so it makes sense to protect forests and mangroves. They are a natural solution to halting global warming.

But expansion of agriculture, mining and cities has led to the loss of vast tracts of forests globally - tropical forests equivalent to the size of Holland were chopped down in 2020 and deforestation has accelerated in Brazil in recent years.

Separately, the Global Methane Pledge was launched in Glasgow on Tuesday, with more than 100 countries (including Singapore) joining a United States and European Union-led effort to slash emissions of potent greenhouse gas methane by 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030.

The target is a collective one, meaning some nations' reductions might be greater than others. Big methane emitters Russia, China and India have not yet signed up, while Australia has rejected the idea of joining.

Methane is released from oil and gas extraction and processing, livestock (cows burp a lot of methane) and landfills.

The gas has a higher heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide but breaks down in the atmosphere faster so cutting methane emissions can have a rapid impact on reining in global warming.

Failing to tackle methane emissions, however, would push out of reach the 2015 Paris Agreement's objective to limit the global rise in temperature to 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

About 100 nations agree to cut methane emissions: Biden

1. The carbon price tag of your wardrobe

Dealing with climate change requires transformation across all aspects of society and economy - including the fashion sector.

Non-profit environmental group Stand.earth held a press conference on the sidelines of COP26 on Tuesday, focusing on how fashion companies are contributing to the climate crisis by failing to reduce supply chain emissions in a way that is compatible with the Paris Agreement.

The analysis examined nine companies - American Eagle Outfitters, Uniqlo, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Gucci, Levi's, Lululemon and Nike.

The nine are part of the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, and have disclosed supply chain emissions for the past two years, as well as reported an annual revenue of at least US$4 billion (S$5.4 billion).

Under the UN Fashion Charter, which was first announced in 2018 at COP24 in Poland, fashion firms committed to reducing climate emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030. The areas for reductions include companies' manufacturing facilities and supply chains, where an estimated 90 per cent of the fashion industry's emissions lie.

"Our new analysis found that fashion companies have made little to no progress in eliminating coal and other fossil fuels from their supply chains," said senior climate campaigner Muhannad Malas at Stand.earth.

He added: "Emissions grew substantially for some companies, and others were more dependent on coal-powered manufacturing facilities than when they first signed the UN Fashion Charter."

2. Boosting food security in a changing climate

A new initiative focusing on innovations in food systems and climate-smart agriculture was launched.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (Aim for Climate) is a joint initiative led by the US and the United Arab Emirates, and is supported by Singapore.

The effort aims to address the climate crisis by getting partners in government, academia and non-government groups to increase and accelerate investment in and support for climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation.

The agriculture sector is a major contributor to climate change, making up about 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Farming releases methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gases.

Yet, the sector is also under threat from a changing climate, with erratic rainfall patterns affecting crop yields.

3. Coughing up cash

Climate finance is one of the biggest sticking points at the UN talks, with rich nations having failed to meet a 2020 deadline to deliver US$100 billion (S$135 billion) a year in funds to help developing nations transition away from fossil fuels and prepare for climate impacts.

Last week, COP26 president Alok Sharma said the goal would be met only in 2023.

But US climate envoy John Kerry suggested that 2022 could be an option. Helping things was a pledge on Tuesday by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that his country would contribute up to US$10 billion over five years.

4. Protesters call for more climate action as world leaders dine at COP26


Protesters were seen holding up signs on Monday evening. ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN

On Monday evening, heads of states in Glasgow for the World Leaders Summit at COP26 made their way from the conference venue at the Scottish Event Campus to the nearby Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for dinner.

Police presence was beefed up significantly, and the roads between both locations were closed to traffic.

But protesters were not deterred. A number of them were seen holding up signs such as "real zero not net-zero" and "keep 1.5 deg C alive" behind the barricades.

Other groups of protesters shouted "extinction" as the leaders' entourages drove by.

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