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Zac Goldsmith hails ‘unprecedented’ deal at Cop26 to save world’s forests

Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith hails ‘unprecedented’ deal at Cop26 to save world’s forests

Saving the world’s forests will be one of the cornerstone achievements of the Cop26 climate summit, the UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith has said, with some of the biggest forested nations and consumers of forestry products signing up to an “unprecedented” conservation deal.

On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders will commit to halting and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030, backed by nearly £14bn in public and private funding. Major producers and consumers of deforestation-linked commodities including Indonesia, China, Brazil and the US have put their name to the deal, which aims to curtail the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Lord Goldsmith said: “This is a genuinely unprecedented package. People will be able to justify having hope [that the world’s forests can be saved]. This puts us on a road to recovery and renewal.”

He said it had “not been easy” to persuade many of the countries involved to join, as the deal requires not just a commitment to halt deforestation – which has never been achieved before, despite numerous failed attempts – and provide forested countries with funds to replace the money they would have made from exploiting forested land, but also to reforming aspects of commodity markets so that buyers cannot get away with importing commodities produced from deforested land.

“The different parts of the package are mutually reinforcing,” said Goldsmith. “We are sending a very serious signal to the markets, we have a good pledge from buyers. The market has been blind to the value of the environment … The [current economic] incentives to deforest are 40 times bigger than the incentives to keep healthy forests, so changing that is difficult.”

The line-up of countries includes China and Brazil, as well as smaller developing countries, and some big buyers of forestry products which will clean up their supply chains.

“There are some surprising countries in there, and this is a pretty bullish pledge,” said the Conservative peer, though he declined to name any countries. “We have managed to persuade some of the trickier customers to come on board.”

Goldsmith, son of the late billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith, has long been a notable environmentalist, a former owner of the Ecologist magazine and a campaigner and philanthropist for conservation projects. His political career as an MP, which included a campaign running against Labour’s Sadiq Khan to be London mayor that was marred by accusations of Islamophobia, was ended by defeat in the 2019 election. Soon afterwards he was put in the Lords, controversially, by Boris Johnson. He was charged by Johnson, an old friend and fellow old Etonian, with what he said was a personal passion for protecting nature and combating the loss of species and habitats.

“Putting nature at the heart [of the Cop] has been my obsession. It’s mad that nature has always been more or less forgotten [in climate negotiations],” said Goldsmith.

The difficulty of achieving the broader deal hoped for at Cop26, of drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific advice, was apparent on the first day of the summit, when more than 120 world leaders gathered in Glasgow. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, delivered a gloomy forecast of the prospects. “Recent climate action announcements might give the impression that we are on track to turn things around,” he said. “This is an illusion.”

In this context, having a side deal on forestry in the bag is a major boost for the UK as hosts. However, some countries and analysts told said the agreement, while important, was flawed and lacking in some key respects, with too little cash being dedicated to helping poor countries preserve their forests, and too little emphasis on reducing demand for the commodities – such as soy, palm oil and beef – that drive deforestation in the first place.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “Everyone wants to see zero deforestation, not least the indigenous peoples whose homes and livelihoods are under threat. But without tackling the drivers of destruction it’s like whistling in the wind to think cash alone will work. Cattle and soya for animal feed are wiping out the Amazon and savannahs of Brazil. The industrial meat industry, like its counterpart in the fossil fuel sector, needs to come to an end.”

He added: “Every climate scientist is saying we need to eat less meat. We won’t save the forests until politicians stop ignoring that message.”

Indigenous leaders, who have been shown to be the best guardians of the natural world by several studies, have also said they were not consulted on the declaration, adding that many leaders making the commitment had a history of breaking promises on protecting indigenous rights.

Goldsmith said the deal would benefit forest dwellers. “Indigenous people have always been seen as second tier [at Cops], they have never been given this support before,” he said. “I think for them this support will be a turning point at this Cop.”

He added: “When you put it all together, it’s a robust package, trying to get as many major countries together as possible to commit to ending deforestation. But it’s worth nothing unless they back this up with policies. It will be our job to make this real.”

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Environment

134 Dead, 76,887 Houses Destroyed As Flooding Hits Jigawa

Heavy flooding in Jigawa State has resulted in the death of 134 persons and destroyed 76,887 houses.

The deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Umar Namadi disclosed this when he hosted the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) official, Rahman Rihub Mahmud Fara on Saturday.

He said the state lost property worth more than N1.5 trillion to the floods.

A total of 22 roads and 11 bridges were completely washed away by the floods, he said.

The deputy governor said an entire village was also completely destroyed.

He said the flood affected 272,189 people, out of which 76,887 lost their houses.Mr Namadi said Kirikasamma and Birniwa local government areas are greatly affected.

UNICEF chief field officer in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa, Mr Fara, said they came to assess the situation and see what could be done to alleviate the suffering of the communities affected by flood in the state.

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Environment

NEMA Confirms Four Dead In Mushin Building Collapse

The three-storey building which collapsed on Friday in Lagos killed four persons.

This is according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

The agency said one other person was rescued in the building that collapsed on Oye Sonuga Street, Palm Avenue, in Mushin, Lagos.

NEMA South-West Zonal Coordinator, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, revealed that those who died were two males and two females.

Earlier, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Omotayo Bamgbose-Martins the cause of the collapse would beinvestigated.

It is learnt that the three-storey building built 40 years would be pulled down immediately for safety reasons and to forestall further collapse, said Bamgbose-Matins.

He has therefore, ordered the Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory to unravel the cause of the collapse.

 

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Environment

Flooding Displaces 2000 In Nasarawa Communities

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Heaving flooding in some communities in Nasarawa state has caused the displacement of about 2000 people.

The Chairman, Doma Local Government in Nasarawa State, Ahmed Sarki-Usman who spoke on Friday during an assessment visit to the affected communities said the incident happened on September 20.

He said his visit was to ascertain the level of damage caused by the flood to report the situation to the state government for necessary action.

“It is unfortunate that the flood destroyed houses, farmlands, produce and other valuables worth millions of naira. Many inhabitants of the area affected by the flood have deserted their homes and are now camping at primary schools as temporary sites. What my people are facing is completely devastating,’’ he lamented.

Sarki-Usman urged people in the communities to remain calm as the government would soon assist them.

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