World leaders promised to protect Earth’s forests, cut methane emissions and help South Africa wean itself off coal at the U.N. climate summit Tuesday — part of a flurry of deals intended to avert catastrophic global warming.
Britain hailed the commitment by more than 100 countries to end deforestation in the coming decade as the first big achievement of the conference in the Scottish city of Glasgow, known as COP26 — but experts noted such promises have been made and broken before.
More than 120 world leaders were heading home after two days in which they received stark warnings about the state of the Earth from Johnson, naturalist David Attenborough, Queen Elizabeth II and — most powerfully — the people of countries and regions already facing climate upheaval.
Johnson said at a news conference that it was important to “guard against false hope,” but added that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome of the talks. The conference aims to keep the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels — the goal set at the Paris climate conference six years ago.
Johnson had a message for negotiators from around the globe who will strain over the next 10 days to turn politicians’ climate promises into reality: “The eyes of the populations of the world are on you.”
The U.K. said it has received pledges from leaders representing more than 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among them are several countries with massive forests, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.
More than $19 billion in public and private funds have been pledged toward the plan.
Experts and observers said fulfilling the pledge will be critical to limiting climate change, but many noted that such grand promises have been made before — to little effect.
“Signing the declaration is the easy part,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Twitter. “It is essential that it is implemented now for people and planet.”